2023 SABR Jefferson Burdick Award Winners

For those of a certain generation, The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, was the greatest book ever written, certainly the greatest book we had ever read, and Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris were Bouton, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare rolled into two. In 152 pages, Boyd and Harris mined the ore of why we all collected baseball cards.

For their literary efforts in shaping a generation (or two, or three) of card collectors, Brendan Boyd and Fred Harris are the recipients of the 2023 Jefferson Burdick Award for their contributions to the baseball card hobby.

GABCFTBGB was, and is, wildly funny, hysterically funny, tears, rolling down your face funny – but with healthy servings of nostalgia, tragedy, and pathos. Sandy Koufax’s 1955 Topps rookie card – his bar-mitzvah picture, wearing a uniform that was a present from his grandmother – is offset by the tragedy of Harry Agganis (and his 1955 Topps card). A few pages after Albie Pearson and his favorite bat Merle, is a solemnly stark page with both 1956 Jackie Robinson and 1963 Roberto Clemente cards surrounded by black. Their deaths were recent, shocking and still raw, and you can feel it on the page.

For young card collectors, the book had serious import. First of all, most of us had never seen these cards. This was the early years of card shows, there were a few dealers, and fewer checklist books, and seeing hundreds of cards from Ted Williams to Whammy Douglas was a feast.

Second, and maybe paramount, was that it gave real validation to our collecting passion. As some of us were bordering on junior high and high school, card collecting became our dark secret. We were at the age where we knew that talking about the 1974 Topps Hank Aaron subset was not going to get us a girl. It was the beginning of card collecting feeling a little weird and a lot uncool.

“I was 12 when this book came out,” recalls Mark Armour, SABR Board President, “Most of my friends had moved on to cooler hobbies and girls, and I had slowed down a bit myself. But Boyd/Harris made me realize that someday people might look back on the cards I collected with the same nostalgia, and maybe I wasn’t so uncool after all. [I might have been wrong about that.] My father and his friends started to pick up the book and read some of the passages aloud—not just the funny ones, but the more poignant ones too. Suddenly adults started to ask me about what was in my shoe boxes, and Mom began to tell her friends that her son had a card collection. It was a real game changer.”

SABR Baseball Cards Committee member Mike O’Reilly adds that “this book will take you back to the days when baseball cards served as kid currency among friends. When a quarter bought 5 wax packs and enough bubble gum to mimic Nellie Fox all day on the sandlot. A time when Ted Lepcio was your white whale, and there were no takers for your Mantles because everybody you knew was a Red Sox fan and hated the Yankees.”

Boyd and Harris showed us a different, and better, way to think about all of this – the nostalgia, the players, the sport, the cards. Each entry was a human interest story of people we had grown to know about, and even care about. The cards themselves became something personal, and not strange. The book made us feel like we were part of a larger family that we never knew existed. Yet I don’t think that was their goal when they wrote “Who the hell is Cuno Barragon?”

Congratulations Brendan C. Boyd and Fred C. Harris on their much-deserved 2023 Jefferson Burdick Award. And goodnight Sibby Sisti, wherever you are.

Editor’s Note: Attempts to locate or contact Mr. Boyd have been unsuccessful, and there is reason to believe he may be deceased. Readers with pertinent information are encouraged to contact SABR Baseball Cards.

Nostra Culpa

As Jason and I have been checking the blog feedback mailbox for your Burdick Award Nominations* we’ve realized that we don’t check that mailbox very often at all. This partly our fault since the blog email doesn’t go to either of us and partly due to WordPress not giving us a single notification about there being new messages.**

*Several great suggestions already. Please keep them coming and make the selection committee’s life as hard as possible.

**Literally everything else lights up with an unread-notifications counter.

Anyway, I’ve decided to clear out that mailbox and pull out all the messages which aren’t spam. It’s pretty apparent that a lot of the messages aren’t the kind of thing that Jason, me, this blog, or SABR are equipped to handle. But I’m going to go ahead and sort them into buckets and post everything here.

Apologies for this being extremely text-heavy. If anyone wants to chime in in the comments that would be awesome.

Possible future post ideas

My favorite messages are the ones that suggest possible future posts. I’d love for any of our contributors to pick these up and run with them. And if you have covered these in your personal blog by all means drop a link in the comments. My initial thoughts follow each question.

Do you have any knowledge about the mid 80’s Star Co player sets such as Mattingly, Murphy, Carlton. Were these licensed cards and do they have any value? I cant seem to find any useful info online about this time in baseball card production by the Star Company. The card’s design mirrors the Star Co basketball design from the licensed ’84, ’85, ’86 sets.

Given how prevalent these sets were—along with the gradient design and all of its “premium” parallels like Nova—it’s sort of amazing that we haven’t had anyone post about these both as cards and how they were clearly ordered by card shops to satisfy regional interests.

I am wondering who played the most MLB games but never appeared on a Topps baseball card. Marshall Bridges appeared in 206 games for 4 teams over 7 years-no Topps card. Anyone ever do any research along this line?

Another great post prompt. This obviously would be limited to the Topps era of cards since anyone playing before 1951 has a huge advantage here. My gut says the answer here is Tony Horton but I really have no idea.

I read Mark Armour’s excellent piece on Houston Astros cards of the 1960s. I wonder if anyone can shed any light on this: After issuing its inaugural team card of the Houston Colt .45s in 1963, why did Topps not issue Houston team cards in its 1964 and 1965 baseball sets?

So I had no idea about this. I do know that the team photos were often provided by the teams so maybe Houston didn’t provide a new photo. A the same time I’ve also seen the same team photo used in multiple years so who knows.

Why does the 1969 Topps set have so many cards that use the same photo as their card in the 1968 set? I always wondered why.

Such a good post idea that Mark Armour already wrote it in 2017.

Questions about value

We also get a lot of questions about what things are worth. This is a subject which Jason and I (and Mark and Chris before us) avoid on here. It’s quite possibly the only subject that we avoid on here. This blog is about usage and how it intersects with our understanding of baseball.

All that said, I’m including the questions here since the hive mind in the comments might be useful. As before my initial reaction follows each question.

I wanted to sell my complete Baltimore Orioles collection (from 1954 to present). This has 2776 regular issued cards (Topps, Bowman, and in the crazy 90’s Fleer, Score, etc) and 438 special issued (e.g., MVP, World Series, etc) for 3214 cards. I contacted Heritage Auctions and they said they mostly deal with graded cards. Do you have any suggestion on where to sell?

Forget about the “where to sell” question I want to know more about this collection, how it started, what were the toughest things to find, and why you’d part with something that cool after completing it.

I was given the 1933 big League set. My question is that all the cards don’t have the white border around the card. Do they still have value?

In this community we believe that cards have value because we value them. There are plenty of us for whom trimmed cards like this are the only way to afford them and as a result we treasure all those well-loved classics.

I was wondering if you guys could help me out with a 1960 Venezuelan Yaz. I sent it to PSA and it is authenticated as a Venezuelan but, after posting on eBay and receiving messages questioning its authenticity as a Venezuelan. You guys have anyone that can help?

A solid “who grades the graders” dilemma here. That people don’t trust PSA should be a huge warning sign for everyone who’s placed their trust in that company. Similarly, that Beckett just claimed that its grades are only guaranteed for the person who submitted the card threatens to upset the whole grading industry.

I have a team signed baseball from the 2000 2001 Cuban national championship team. Wondering if there’s any value in it

I’m 100% certain that there’s someone out there who would value that.

I’m doing some research on the intersection of baseball card value and copyright protection. To this end, I’m trying to find a database of old baseball card values from early Beckett Baseball Card Magazines (1984-1994). Are you aware of any such database or would you know anyone that might have such a database?

Leaving this in the value section but even someone as jaded about the monetary value side of the hobby as I am would be interested in a historical card value ticker. If such a thing exists by all means drop a link in our comments.

I have a Goudey 1933 Joe Cronin card with a card #189 front ( with a Joe Cronin fielding pose ) and a Joe Cronin #63 card back. My online research to date has not yielded any information, any indication that such a “wrong back” error card has ever been identified. I just read Jason’s very interesting and informative article about the 1933 set, and there was no indication of any prior knowledge of this error. How can I find out the market value of this card, which has some edge staining and would probably grade as a 3 or 4 ?

Zero idea on market value but I’d love to see photos of this.

Advice & Mysteries

We also get a decent amount of “what is this?” and “please help” questions. Many of these could likely be solved by some time on TCDB but some are genuine mysteries. Others are too open-ended to really respond to.

I have a Gaylord Perry signed set of 6 cards that I believe a company called Star Enterprise printed due to Gaylord being a spokesperson for them. I’m not positive on the company name but it’s very close. How can I send you photos of cards to see if you have ever seen them?

Best way to send us this kind of thing is to tweet at @SABRbbcards so we can retweet it to the hive mind. That said I really hope this is talking about the Peanut Farm cards.

Hello I am looking for some info on Dan Dee Mickey Mantle 2 sided advertising card with Frank Thomas on back any info I would greatly appreciate

No ideas. If anyone knows please drop a comment.

Our son found a Waite Hoyt baseball card in a used book from Library sale in early 1990s. It looks to be dated 1933 or 1932 and it looks like the others I have seen listed on ebay, it is printed in color on front. Only difference is the back is not printed in green ink, it is printed in black ink. Do you have any idea why it would have black ink on back?

I hate to say it but black ink makes me think it’s a reprint. I don’t know enough about these though to say anything definitive.

I am looking for a source of a high resolution version of the original image used for the red portrait T206 Ty Cobb

There’s a decent-sized one on the T206 project page.

Can you point me to a source or reference that may be able to shed some light on the Hygrade All Time Greats set? Specifically, I am looking for information concerning corrections that were made and changes to player photos. There include completely new photos, additions to photos and many recentering of photos, which I believe may have been done to show the players team on their hat or jersey which were obscured.

As always the first stop is TCDB. This is a reminder to me though that I’m long overdue on a post about my Hygrade Baseball Cards Collectors Kit which introduced me to the hobby.

Great article on Donruss Diamond Kings. Is there a source online that provides a listing and checklist for each set for each year. I know the artist changed in the 1990s.

To my knowledge, there’s nothing Diamond Kings specific. Instead you have to check TCDB set by set.

What is the best way to collect Topps baseball cards issued in previous years (1940s to 2010s)? Is ebay a good place to look? Or are there other (and cheaper) ways to collect?

Zero way to answer “best” but this blog has talked about multiple sources of cards from websites like Ebay, COMC, and Sportlots to in-person opportunities like shows and card shops.

I have a lot of Donruss Diamond Kings baseball cards. If you would please email me back because I have lots of questions about these cards.

Looking for a Babe Ruth and Stan Musial Dexter Press Baseball Hall of fame postcards to purchase.

Do you have anything on Jim / James McNeil who played for the Raleigh Tigers in the 1960s?

These three questions are all examples of the kind of thing we don’t really do on here. Anything we’ve covered already can be found via the search function and everything else will be researched using the same tools available to everyone else. We’re not a marketplace or reference librarian.

How to join the blog

The last batch of questions are all basically the same thing and are asking how to join the blog or submit a post. I’ve emailed everyone already and sent invite links out. And I fully apologize again for the delay in getting back to people.

I would like to join SABR & follow this blog.

Join SABR. Though you don’t need to join in order to follow the blog.

I’ve written a piece that I’d like to submit for consideration on the SABR Baseball Cards blog. Are there any guidelines rules for submission? To where should I submit my draft when it is ready?

The one rule is that you have to be an active member of SABR. If you are, contact us (Jason and I promise to check that more regularly) and we’ll get you started. As for guidelines, this place is a sandbox. Focus on cards. How they intersect with your life. How they relate to our understanding of baseball. How they fit in to the larger culture.

If I wanted to write an article do I do it in Google Sheets or Word?

Please not Google sheets. Yes Jason uses a lot of spreadsheets in his posts but those are images by the time he posts them. Outside of that, blogs are primarily plain text. Once you’re a contributor you can compose directly on WordPress. Word or Google Docs are also fine. As is the body of an email.

How do I submit a blog post? I don’t see a create button—or am I missing something?

Once you’re a contributor you’ll have access to the WordPress UI which definitely has both a create post button and a submit post button. If you’re not a contributor yet then we need to get that step taken care of first.

I don’t quite plan on doing a post like this again unless we get another great batch of possible post suggestions. I have my fingers crossed that this will inspire a few posts or at least some blog comments.

Call for Nominations – 2023 Jefferson Burdick Award

Through February 28, the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is accepting nominations for the Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby.


Nominations should come from active SABR members (click here to join) and honor a living person who has made significant contributions to the hobby of baseball card collecting in such areas as—

  • Research/scholarship
  • Design/production/innovation
  • Collector resources (e.g., publications, websites, communities, events)
  • Expanding access to or enjoyment of the Hobby

In short, we are looking for the individuals who have made baseball card collecting better for the rest of us.


Have someone in mind? Here is what we’d like you to do.

  • No later than February 28, use the Contact form on this website to let us know your nominee(s) along with with a brief description of their role or contributions. A few sentences is sufficient at this stage in the process.
  • Be available for follow-up in case more information is needed.
  • Publicize this Call for Nominations to other SABR members with an interest in baseball cards.

On our end, we (your committee co-chairs, Nick and Jason) will vet the nominees and then work with our Awards Subcommittee to choose the award winner.



For a wealth of great articles on our award’s namesake, head to the Burdick section of the “Old Baseball Cards” library.

Just in case

Way back at the end of 2018 Mark Armour wrote a post about how where most SABR committees produce something concrete like a database, book, or online project, the Baseball Cards Committee ended up building a community. Twitter has been a huge driver of that community with so many fantastic and fun discussions centering around @SABRBBCards. Mark gave us a great start and Jason has carried the torch wonderfully.

For my part, I would not be collecting cards, a member of SABR (let alone a committee head), or enjoying Twitter nearly as much had this committee not ended up there half a dozen years ago. Which is why Twitter’s current instability feels like such a gut punch. I’m not trying to predict the future here but I’ve already seen too many people bail from the platform as well as enough warning signs that I’ve been dipping my toe in Twitter alternatives.

No, none of them are the same; for starters the community isn’t there. Yet. But there are a lot which feel very promising and it’s amazing how few people you need for things to start feeling fun the way they used to be.

To whit. In the scenario that Twitter becomes unusable for you,* you can find us in the following locations.

*For whatever technical, social, ethical, political, personal reason you choose.

SABR’s in-house group feature

This is an old-school email list which will remind those of us who were around for it of the late-90s, early-2000s internet. Subscribing is easy enough, just email sabrbbcards+subscribe@sabrgroups.org. Once you’re subscribed you can access the webpage at sabrgroups.org/g/sabrbbcards and configure your email delivery settings or browse the archives.


Mastodon feels a lot like Twitter. It can get complicated but thankfully one of the Sports Reference guys set up an instance at hellosports.page which is really simple to sign up for. Jason and I are on there at @HeavyJ and @vossbrink respectively. No blog account yet but for now most of the active accounts on there are us.


As with SABR’s group email list, Discord feels very much like the halcyon days of Internet Relay Chat. A few of us have se up servers to discuss things like custom card design or through the mail autograph returns but the nature of those chat rooms is such that they often become more free-wheeling discussions about cards in general. Since Discord is sort of an invite thing I have no good permanent links to put here but if this seems interesting to you hit me up in the comments on this post and I’ll try to get you in contact with someone.


There are also a few other legacy platforms where the community is present. I’m no longer there but we do have a Facebook presence/group if the Facebook experience if more your style. A lot of people are also migrating to or increasing their Instagram presences.

And yeah, I can’t say that this community isn’t going anywhere because it very much is. It is however way too big to disappear. I’ll miss what I had on Twitter since I suspect that the best-case scenario is something like the post 1994 strike MLB world where a lot us just fell out of the baseball habit for a few years. But I’m absolutely looking forward to reconnecting and keeping in touch with as many of you as possible.

This blog isn’t going anywhere and if we end up with discussions in the comments like we used to have in the glory days of blogging that’ll be just fine too.

2022 Burdick Award Winner

The Jefferson Burdick Award for contributions to the Hobby, now in its third year, is this committee’s most prestigious award. To date, our winners have been Mike Aronstein (2020) and Doug McWilliams (2021). This year, our winner needs little introduction as his very name is synonymous with the rapid growth of card collecting in the 1980s and 1990s. We are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2022 Jefferson Burdick Award is Dr. James Beckett.

For an entire generation of collectors, cracking open the latest Beckett Monthly was a ritual as exciting if not more than ripping actual packs of cards. Which new players made the Hot List? How much did the year’s most expensive rookie cards go up? Can I retire right now off my cardboard or do I really have to finish 9th grade first?! 😊

Instant access to the latest prices, which almost always went up, rarely down, surely had its drawbacks. What collector of a certain age doesn’t regret trading away a prized Sandy Koufax or Henry Aaron for a high numbers Todd Zeile or Donruss Eric Davis rookie? How much extra plastic had to be produced when at least three or four cards per pack went straight into penny sleeves if not screwdowns? And did anyone just collect for fun anymore?!

At the same time, was the Hobby ever more exciting for a greater number of people? In the Beckett’s heyday, not only were cards everywhere but collectors were too. Shows were seemingly every weekend, at least in some parts, and the Hobby was enjoyed by young and old alike. Sure, the very idea of a nine-year old cardboard day trader gave many purists pause, but in hindsight we just didn’t know how good we had it.

Kids everywhere having a blast collecting cards. Forget the why. That’s the Hobby at its best. Oh, and thanks to the Beckett, what mom in her right mind was still throwing away her kids’ collections?

But what of so many young collectors who lost their shirts chasing Kevin Maas and Brien Taylor rookies? Aren’t they bitter?

“My grandmother sent me money for my birthday one year, and I bought a subscription to Beckett,” recalls SABR member and artist Scott Hodges.
“Every month when the new issue came I would read every page and study the prices over and over. Years later, I found out my (then) wife and I were having a girl. I just knew this little girl was going to be my favorite thing in the world, just as my Beckett Monthlies had been as a kid, so there was only one logical name to give her. So yes, our daughter is named after a baseball card price guide, but really she’s named for the joy of being a kid.”

How about collector and author Tanner Jones who amassed the most expansive Jose Canseco collection on the planet? “The Beckett was everything to me back when I was a kid. I lived and died by the up/down arrows and articles. Now that I know Jim personally, I’m proud that my son, Beckett, has his name!”

Of course even before “the Beckett” was a thing or the baby name of choice for a generation of collectors turned parents, Dr. Beckett was already a household name thanks to the annual price guides he created along with co-author Denny Eckes of Den’s Collectors Den fame.

While the primary intent of these books was to attach prices to the cards and sets in our collections and want lists, they did much more than that. In the pre-internet era in which they were produced, they also provided every collector with $6.95 to spare or a birthday coming up with an inventory and checklist for virtually all the major sets in the Hobby. Four different Babe Ruth cards in 1933 Goudey? An entire set of Ted Williams cards in 1959? Cards even older than T206? For many collectors, this was how we learned such things. Jim brought baseball card knowledge and history to the masses.

Here at SABR Baseball Cards we tend to avoid the financial or business side of the Hobby. In creating our Burdick Award we were not simply looking to honor the person who amassed the most valuable collection or made the most money in the Hobby. At the same time, success is neither a disqualifier.

In his six decades (and counting) in the Hobby, Dr. James Beckett built what can rightly be called a multisport Hobby empire, one that today includes publications, grading services, livestreams, a marketplace, and a large, vibrant collecting community. The Beckett baseball “hobby talk” forum, for example, has over 800,000 posts! However, Dr. Beckett did not merely build something big. He built something special.

For at least a generation of collectors, Dr. Beckett and his monthly magazines practically were the Hobby. Even as many of the up arrows have turned to down and most of the 1990s hot lists have gone cold, the memories have continued their one-way march toward that rare air once thought only tenable by Gregg Jefferies rookies. That is to say they’ve become priceless. We thought the cards of the that great 1980s and 90s boom would fund our retirements, and we weren’t far off at all. Just take away the “d.”

Congratulations, Dr. Beckett, and thank you to all our readers who submitted a nomination. We’ll be honoring Dr. Beckett this August at the SABR annual convention in Baltimore, and we hope you can join us, either in person or virtually.

Call for Nominations – 2022 Jefferson Burdick Award

Through January 31, the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is accepting nominations for the Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby.


Nominations should come from active SABR members (click here to join) and honor a living person who has made significant contributions to the hobby of baseball card collecting in such areas as—

  • Research/scholarship
  • Design/production/innovation
  • Collector resources (e.g., publications, websites, communities, events)
  • Expanding access to or enjoyment of the Hobby

In short, we are looking for the individuals who have made baseball card collecting better for the rest of us.


Have someone in mind? Here is what we’d like you to do.

  • No later than January 31, use the Contact form on this website to let us know your nominee(s) along with with a very brief description of their role or contributions. A few sentences is sufficient at this stage in the process.
  • Be available for follow-up in case more information is needed.
  • Publicize this Call for Nominations to other SABR members with an interest in baseball cards.

On our end, we (your committee co-chairs, Nick and Jason) will vet the nominees and then work with our Awards Subcommittee to choose the award winner.



For a wealth of great articles on our award’s namesake, head to the Burdick section of the “Old Baseball Cards” library.

2021 Burdick Award Winner

The Awards Subcommittee thanks everyone who made nominations for this year’s Jefferson Burdick Award. Last year we listed the finalists before announcing the winner. A large part of this was to demonstrate the breadth and variety of nominees. Due to the overlap in nominees between this year and last year as well as the fact that we consider anyone who’s been named a finalist to always be a finalist, we’ve chosen to not feature the finalists this year and just cut straight to the big reveal.

So without any further ado, we are pleased to announce that the 2021 winner for the SABR Baseball Committee’s Jefferson Burdick Award for contributions to the baseball card hobby is photographer Doug McWilliams.

Doug’s work as a baseball card photographer speaks for itself. All of us have seen his work. All of us own his work. He even donated 10,000 negatives to the Hall of Fame,* creating a huge digital collection of color images of all kinds of players from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

*Why yes, you can search his archives there.

If you’ve ever held a baseball card from the 1970s in your hand, you’ve likely admired the impeccable artistry of Doug McWilliams’s work. His brilliant use of color, unsurpassed mastery of light, and natural rapport with his subjects made for thousands of unforgettable and classic cards, each miniature masterpieces of the genre.

—Tom Shieber, Senior Curator
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

What makes him award-worthy though is his willingness to pull back the curtain and show us the process of how photographs end up on cards. Doug has been very generous giving interviews to both the Hall of Fame as well as this blog. These interviews are a treasure trove of information about what kinds of photos Topps wanted and the technical requirements that they had.

That cards are essentially cheap, mass-produced photos makes them a visual record of photographic technology. Being able to read about what kind of film, cameras, and lenses he used is invaluable in grounding our understanding of cards as part of that visual record.

Doug’s comments about Topps’s technical requirements on the other hand are a fascinating look at how corporate workflows and standards shape the final products in ways that most of us don’t understand. Much of the Topps “look” that we’re used to is explained by these standards which dictated what kinds of lighting and what kinds of film were to be used.

While there’s a world out there of photographs that he wanted to take but wasn’t allowed to, the photos he did take have formed an indelible part of all of our lives and we’re so much richer for him sharing the process with us. Congratulations and thank you, Doug!

UPDATE: Watch Doug’s award ceremony on YouTube!

Call for Nominations – 2021 Jefferson Burdick Award

The SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is once again taking nominations for the Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby. It was an honor and privilege to present the inaugural award to Hobby pioneer and Renaissance man Mike Aronstein of TCMA fame. (Click here for the star-studded, online ceremony.)

And no, your eyes don’t deceive you! Mike’s trophy features the highly coveted Mike Aronstein rookie card designed by Committee co-chair Nick Vossbrink.

Looking ahead to our 2021 award, here are the criteria we’d like you to consider in your nominations.

Award criteria

Yes, we are looking for YOU to nominate a worthy recipient who has made significant contributions to the hobby in such areas as–

  • Baseball card research/scholarship
  • Baseball card creation/production/innovation
  • Developing/maintaining resources (e.g., publications, websites, communities, events) for collectors
  • Increasing access, knowledge, or enjoyment

In short, we are looking for the individuals who have made baseball card collecting a better hobby for the rest of us. (Click here to see profiles of last year’s finalists.)

Award process

Have someone in mind? Here is what we’d like you to do.

  • No later than January 31, use the Contact form on this website to let us know your nominee(s) along with with a very brief description of their role or contributions. A few sentences is sufficient at this stage in the process.
  • Be available for follow-up in case more information is needed.
  • Publicize this Call for Nominations to other SABR members with an interest in cards.

On our end, we (your committee co-chairs, Nick and Jason) will vet the nominees and then work with our Awards Subcommittee* to choose the award winner.

*Subject to availability, those committee members who contributed at least 10 posts to the SABR Baseball Cards blog in the preceding year.

Award rules

A couple quick notes before closing this post and putting the ball in your court:

  • Nominees should be living at the time of nomination (and we’ll hope for their sake still alive by SABR 51!)
  • You must be a SABR member to participate in the nomination process. If you are not yet a member, please join!
  • The nomination deadline is January 31, 2021.

More about the award’s namesake

Finally, for a wealth of great articles on Jefferson Burdick himself, head to the Burdick section of the “Old Baseball Cards” library.

50 at 50

Sending out an alert for anyone who follows this blog but isn’t on Twitter or Facebook. SABR has been celebrating its upcoming 50th anniversary by having each committee contribute a 50 at 50 article on the SABR website. The Baseball Cards Committee’s contribution went up today.

Rather than making it a top-50 list or some other ranking, we decided to go a different direction and treat baseball cards as timeline that they are with a post of 50 cards for 50 years.

Baseball cards aren’t just something to collect. They mark the seasons and document the game as it happens. Looking back at them shows us the history of the game. Who played. What was important. What happened. How we analyzed things. Cards may fall under the category of “ephemera” but the ephemeral nature of what they record is what makes them such an important chronicle of the game.

Our list is not intended to be definitive or authoritative. Both the history of the hobby and the history of the game are way too interesting for each year to be able to be summed up in a single card. Instead we look forward to the discussion and critiques that always follow such lists.

While Jason and Nick are credited with compiling the contents, we wish to thank the multiple other experts who allowed us to pick their brains and challenged our choices.

Burdick Award finalists

The Awards Subcommittee of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee is appreciative of the many nominations from membership. At this time we are pleased to announce the five finalists for our inaugural Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby and particularly gratified to see that the process resulted in such a broad range of nominations.

The Award was not designed to honor the biggest or best collection or the person who made the most money through the hobby—not that either of those things would be disqualifying. Rather, it was simply created to recognize individuals who in any variety of ways have made the Hobby better for the rest of us.

Dr. Robert Fitts

Our first finalist is Robert Fitts. Dr. Fitts, our committee’s featured speaker at #SABR49, boasts an impressive resume of accomplishments and scholarship including the 2006 Sporting News-SABR Research Award, the 2012 Doug Pappas Award for best oral research, the 2013 Seymour Medal for Best Baseball Book of 2012, and the 2019 McFarland-SABR Baseball Research Award.

He is best known in the Hobby for his unmatched expertise and research in the area of Japanese baseball cards. While this committee has primarily focused on U.S. card releases, Fitts’s expertise and enthusiasm for Japanese cards and the way they interact with the hobby in the U.S. expands our understanding of what cards can be. This is not just a US-centered thing and baseball is a worldwide game.

Bert Blyleven and Mike Noren

Our second finalist is Mike Noren, the artist behind Gummy Arts and Cecil Cooperstown. Mike’s whimsical baseball card creations are currently featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Shoebox Treasures” exhibit, and his set of 1919 White Sox strip cards were a crowd favorite at SABR’s Black Sox Scandal Centennial Symposium.

Mike’s cards have inspired many collectors to reconnect with the Hobby, and his daily posts to social media platforms have inspired numerous other baseball card artists. He references designs from the entire history of baseball cards and in so doing, transforms old designs into wholly new and modern creations. Meanwhile his pop-culture creations hint at the long history of collecting photos and cards and confirm how the concept of a Baseball Card™ transcends the sport.

Dr. James Beckett

Our third finalist, Dr. James Beckett, has a name nearly synonymous with the unprecedented growth of the Hobby in the 1980s and 1990s, though his continuing contributions to the Hobby span nearly half a century. In the tradition of our award’s namesake, Dr. Beckett has contributed to the identification and cataloging of numerous sets, and his publications such as the Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide (with Dennis Eckes) and the Beckett Monthly brought both checklists and price guides to the mainstream of the Hobby.

For the generation of collectors who came of age in the 1980s, Beckett is their Burdick. It is impossible to imagine the hobby without him and his publications were not merely price guides but captured the zeitgeist of an entire collecting generation.

Keith Olbermann

Our fourth finalist is broadcasting legend Keith Olbermann, whose contributions to the Hobby began while he was still in high school as an editor for “Collectors Quarterly” and the writer for the card backs of the 1975 Sports Stars Publishing Company (SSPC) baseball set. He would go on to contribute photos to 1981 Donruss while amassing a world class collection of cards and memorabilia.

Keith has used his collection as reference material for his encyclopedic knowledge of the Hobby, which he frequently shares in articles and social media posts. Whenever we have a question about the Topps photo archive or who produced a set of cards, he is our resident expert. Keith was our committee’s featured speaker at #SABR47 and represents how baseball cards can turn someone into a baseball fan.

Mike Aronstein with son Andrew

Our last finalist and the winner of the 2020 Jefferson Burdick Award for Contributions to the Hobby is Michael Aronstein. Best known as the “MA” in TCMA, the company he co-founded with Tom (the “TC” half) Collier in 1972, Mike’s Hobby resume also includes:

  • Card show pioneer, having arranged and hosted (in his basement!) one of the very first “conventions” in 1970 and having gone on to co-organize the biannual American Sports Card Collectors Association shows in New York City;
  • Publisher of Collectors Quarterly magazine;
  • One of the Hobby’s first full-time dealers, providing collectors with alternatives to mainstream sets along with collecting supplies such as plastic sheets before they were widely available anywhere else;
  • Producer of hundreds of minor league team sets, including the “pre-rookie cards” of Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Wade Boggs, and re-launching the minor league card industry in the process;
  • Challenger of the Topps monopoly with his Sports Stars Publishing Company (SSPC) 660-card set consisting almost entirely of current players;
  • Exclusive distributor of the 1981 Donruss set (but we won’t hold that against him!);
  • Founder of Photo File, supplying the Hobby with high quality 8×10 photos to be signed by athletes.

More importantly, TCMA cards were touchstone for many, if not all, of us as the only cards we could find/afford of baseball legends. In a way that no book can touch, TCMA cards taught kids about baseball: who the legends were and why, what they looked like, etc. If Topps is the card of record representing which players were relevant for the current season, TCMA were the cards of history and how we learned about baseball itself.

We look forward to honoring Mike at our national convention, SABR 50, in Baltimore. We hope you’ll make plans to join us as we celebrate Mike’s lifetime of contributions to the Hobby. Over the next couple months we’ll share more information about this and other baseball card happenings planned for SABR 50.