To date there have been 11 cards (ignoring variants) honoring Carl Hubbell’s 1934 All-Star Game performance in which he struck out these five immortals in succession.
The earliest card to focus on his famous fanning feat came in 1938, via Wheaties Series 10. Interestingly, Hubbell’s account focuses exclusively on his first inning strikeout victims (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx) and makes no mention of the second inning strikeouts that followed.
A decade later, Hubbell’s Midsummer Classic heroics were featured in the 1948 Swell “Sport Thrills” set. Here his strikeouts of Al Simmons and Joe Cronin are reflected in the card’s “Five Strikeouts!” caption.
Though no cards in the 1950s paid tribute to the achievement, Nu-Cards doubled down with cards on both its 1960 “Baseball Hi-Lites” and 1961 “Baseball Scoops” checklists. The 1960 card appears to use the same photograph as “Sport Thrills.”
Meanwhile, the 1961 image could almost be confused for a lunar landscape.
In 1972, legendary baseball card artist Bob Laughlin included Hubbell in his “Great Feats of Baseball” series, which can be found with either blue or red borders.
Just two years later, Laughlin featured Hubbell once again, this time in a set of cards specifically focused on the All-Star Game. An early print run for the set erroneously had 14 as King Carl’s uniform number.
For whatever reason, Laughlin did not include Hubbell in either his 1973 or 1980 “Famous Feats” sets. However, King Carl was back in 1981 in a brand new All-Star Game set occupying the backs of 1980 Fleer Baseball Stickers. Offering a bit of detail many collectors may overlook, Laughlin not only illustrates Hubbell’s five victims but also the manner of each strikeout (i.e., Ruth looking and the other players swinging).
The Meal Ticket’s mastery was next included in the final series of a 1977-84 Renata Galasso release alternately known as “Glossy Greats” and “Decade Greats.” This series, released in 1984, focused exclusively on great moments.
Hubbell’s heroics would again go on hiatus for a decade, returning in the 1994 installment of the Conlon Collection. In truth, the card was one of 39 different cards commemorating the 1934 All-Star Game, so it’s status as a highlights card can certainly be debated.
King Carl’s card in that same year’s Upper Deck Baseball: The American Epic release has similarly ambiguous status as the card front highlights the year but not the feat.
Then, nearly 40 years went by without a single card paying tribute to the Hubbell’s strikeout magic. Thankfully, artist Eric Kittelberger of Triple Play Design ended the drought this past years with this absolute masterpiece from his “Nicknames & Numbers” series, even if purists might like to see his first K reversed.
There is something fitting about number 11 having 11 cards commemorating his most famous feat, but I definitely won’t complain if more are added. Should Topps ever decide to join the party, it’s “Turn Back the Clock” series offers a natural vehicle.
EXTRA FOR EXPERTS
The earliest cardboard mention of Hubbell’s feat came in the 1935 Diamond Matchbook set where the five strikeouts are included as part of Hubbell’s bio.
Heading into the 1934 Midsummer Classic, Hubbell had only seven times in his career struck out three batters in an inning, making his All-Star Game performance all the more unlikely, especially considering he did it twice that day!
It wasn’t quite “Carl Hubbell Baseball Card” enough to make my list, but Hubbell’s accomplishment was one of several to make the 1988 Score insert set.
Ditto in 1989!
Hubbell is mentioned (and even quoted) on a 1986 Donruss Highlights card honoring fellow screwballer Fernando Valenzuela for matching his famous feat.
In what came as wonderful and welcome news to card collectors of a certain vintage, filmmaker Marq Evans announced Monday his plans for a full-length feature film on legendary baseball artist Dick Perez, along with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the effort.
Since that time, Marq and Dick have appeared on several livestreams and podcasts, offering collectors some fun behind-the-scenes stories about the Donruss Diamond Kings, Dick’s other artistic ventures, and of course the film itself. Here is a nice sampling.
Marq has also released several short clips from “The Diamond King” as part of his promotional efforts of the film and its Kickstarter campaign. All are worth a watch or listen. For example, here is a clip of Dick sharing his memories as a young collector in the 1950s.
Marq was kind enough to provide SABR Baseball Cards with some previously unseen images from the 22-card baseball card set accompanying the film. The majority of the set features Hall of Famers personally selected as “Diamond Immortals” by Dick, but there are also five players not yet enshrined in Cooperstown. Their cards bear the “Diamond Destiny” moniker.
UPDATE: The set has now been upped to 25 cards!
Dick has also designed backs for the cards, as seen in these mockups.
A total of 499 sets will be produced, individually serial numbered and available only through the film’s Kickstarter page. Here is the complete checklist.
Additionally, Marq and Dick were both generous with their time in providing me the opportunity to interview them about “The Diamond King,” the new baseball card set, and whatever else popped into my head.
SABR Baseball Cards: Let’s begin with your earliest memories as a card collector. We’ll start with Dick.
Dick Perez: Baseball cards were another grand feature of Spring: warmer weather, schooldays coming to an end, the birth of another baseball season, and the reappearance of baseball cards. I was hooked on baseball and the imagery that brought my heroes to life.
Marq Evans: Baseball was my life as a kid, and from age 7 to about 13 I was all about collecting cards. Every dollar I earned from chores, every birthday or Christmas present, it went towards cards. When Ken Griffey Jr. came on the scene in 1989 he instantly became my favorite player and the main focus of my collection. I collected hundreds of his cards and pretty much every weekend was spent at the local card shop to see what the new stock was.
SABR Baseball Cards: Dick, you grew up in an era where baseball cards and art were inseparable. What impression did the artwork of the early 1950s baseball cards make on you?
Dick Perez: I became interested in baseball cards in 1952. Although at the time I thought they were photographic, they had a special look. The 1953 issue of the cards was even better. They looked more artistic. I still believed they were photographic, but in 1954 the imaging of baseball cards changed. It was later in life that I learned that the ’52 and ’53 cards were produced by artists. It seems that the goal was to make those hand painted cards look like photos. That is something I strive not to do when I create my baseball images. I want the viewer to know for sure that a hand was responsible for the work.
SABR Baseball Cards: Visually, did you have any favorites from the 1953 set?
Dick Perez: My favorites from that ’53 set were Jackie Robinson, Luke Easter, Mickey Mantle, Satchel Paige, Al Schoendienst, Joe Collins, Monte Irvin, Vinegar Bend Mizell and Ted Wilks in that order.
SABR Baseball Cards: Exceptional choices from top to bottom! How about you, Marq? I know you started collecting a little bit later than Dick. Was there a set in particular you liked best?
Marq Evans: I just loved cards and don’t remember having a favorite set as a kid. The hunt for Griffey brought me to just about every set there was. I do recall having a distinct emotional connection to the Donruss Diamond King cards and they became a set I looked forward to every year. It’s funny though, I don’t think back then I ever thought about the artist that was painting these cards. I just thought they were cool. It wasn’t until decades later that became curious about the artist behind these great images.
SABR Baseball Cards: I suppose that’s a great opportunity for me to ask. How did the idea for this film come about?
Marq Evans: When I read about Dick’s journey, coming to New York at age 6 and learning English and about America through the game of baseball, and his inspiring life story, I thought there was the potential to make a film about baseball through his life and work.
SABR Baseball Cards: And how did that go?
Marq Evans: I sent Dick a blind email just introducing myself and seeing if he was interested in discussing the concept. To my delight he said he’d be happy to talk. We really hit it off right away and he has been a great participant and collaborator in this whole process. He’s an insanely talented artist, of course, but an even better person.
SABR Baseball Cards: Dick, you’ve created your first brand new baseball set in way too long as part of the fundraising for the film. The inclusion of both Orator O’Rourke and J-Rod tells me you were fairly intentional in your player checklist. What was your approach to selecting 22 players from all of baseball history?
Dick Perez: Many of the players chosen for the set are players I knew personally, painted often, played tennis with, or worked together with on some project. There is an even longer list, which still could appear later on. It is possible we may make the card set grow some.
SABR Baseball Cards: Marq, are there other things collectors should know about these cards?
Marq Evans: I love how the set spans the whole history of baseball from the origins until today. I’ll just add that the printer that is printing this set did the last several years of Diamond Kings, so we’re getting some of the old team back together. Finally, our Kickstarter has more than just the baseball card set. For example, we have a limited edition Aaron Judge print numbered to 99 and Dick’s original artwork of Shohei Ohtani!
SABR Baseball Cards: This may sound like an odd question, but many collectors care about such details. Will the card set’s serial numbering be reflected on the packaging only, or will each card be individually numbered?
Marq Evans: Each card. For example, the 50th set ordered through our Kickstarter campaign will have all 22 of its cards individually numbered 50/499.
SABR Baseball Cards: Now you have me hoping the 21st set ends up with a Clemente collector and set 99 goes to a Judge fan! Just one last question. Dick this one will take you back 40 years if that’s okay. The 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes set represented the first time cards of Negro Leaguers Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell could ever be pulled from packs, at least in this country. What inspired you to include them in the set?
Dick Perez: I guess it was to emphasize the point that there were players from the Negro Leagues who were just as great as any Hall of Fame member. They are now part of the heritage that institution honors.
SABR Baseball Cards: Thank you, gentleman. Best of luck with the film. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that there’s an Oscar in your future!
A few weeks ago, my daughter walked downstairs and handed me a handful of baseball cards I had given her years ago. She had been using them for bookmarks, she confessed, and was ready to get them off her desk.
As I sifted through about 30 cards, scanning them front and back, I remembered something that had escaped me as I have become a more casual collector: You can sometimes learn a lot about a baseball player from his card, and it isn’t always about baseball.
A good example can be found on the back of Al Williams’ 1982 Donruss. Under “Career Highlights,” among the stats and facts, we learn that Al, a Minnesota Twins pitcher from 1980 to ‘84, “survived a Nicaraguan earthquake in ‘72 that destroyed half his house while he was sleeping.”
That line itself sent me Googling for more information about the earthquake. The 6.3 magnitude event struck near the capital city Managua about 30 minutes after midnight on December 23, 1972. Reports vary widely about how many people were killed, between 4,000 and 11,000. More than 20,000 were injured and 300,000-plus were left homeless.
(Baseball historians will be quick to note that Roberto Clemente was delivering aid to the victims of this earthquake when he died in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico.)
Al was 18 at the time of the earthquake. It was just a year after he began playing baseball.
The next line Donruss listed among the pitcher’s “Career Highlights,” said Al “fought 16 months with the guerilla forces against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in ‘77-’78.” The next line tells us he “was the strikeout leader of the ill-fated Inter-American League in 1978.”
OK, that sentence seems a bit out of place. Let’s go back to Al fighting with guerilla forces.
According to an April 3, 1984, New York Times story, which quotes that year’s Minnesota Twins media guide, the Nicaraguan government would not grant Williams, then a minor leaguer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a visa to leave the country to join his ball club in the United States in 1977, so “this prompted Al to sign up with the Sandinista National Liberation Front guerillas and he was engaged in jungle fighting against forces of Anastasio Somoza for the next 16 months.”
Times reporter Ira Berkow asked Al about those months of fighting and his “cloak and dagger” escape – that’s the way the Twins media guide phrased it – from his home country.
“That’s in the past,” Al replied, sitting in front of his locker. “I live for the future.”
Three years prior, the Times wrote about “Fearless Al Williams” for a section titled “Sports People.” There, Al spoke briefly about the time he spent fighting and away from baseball.
“I really missed baseball the two years I was out of it,” he said, “but, I wasn’t thinking about baseball all the time. “I was just trying to stay alive.”
One of the great inventions in recent hobby history is the invention of Pack Night. Created by a group of Chicago friends/SABR members, Pack Night is simply joyful – a small band of pals get together with unopened boxes of packs, mostly from the 1980’s and 1990’s and split them equally, trading, sharing, and gabbing about cards and baseball for hours. And there’s pizza and beer. The generous spirit of Pack Night is what makes it special – Dodger collectors get Dodger cards, Cub collectors get Cub cards, set builders are helped to build sets. And there’s pizza and beer.
Pack Night made a rare road appearance two weeks ago in Cooperstown. Almost 20 baseball friends came to the village and hung out for the weekend. There was a Pack Night to end all Pack Nights. Not only was there a giant table piled high with boxes and packs, but there were multiple tables set up with free stuff that was up for grabs (I left with a bag full of RC Cola cans I didn’t have).
One thing that’s difficult about Pack Night is that the product can get repetitive. Lots of 1988 Donruss make their way to the table. Same for 1990 Topps. It ain’t called “junk wax” for nuthin’. Twitterless Rich, a non-social media member of the core Chicago gang, keeps a spreadsheet of what’s been opened. It’s both helpful and frustrating, because it’s awfully tough to find a rarity, but I was determined to find something that hadn’t been opened before. And I did – a box of 1984 Topps Rub Downs.
I was intrigued when I stumbled upon these. I had never heard of them. The cards, such as they are, are lightweight stock, like tracing paper, with images you can transfer from the Rub Down sheet to wherever. They’re slightly smaller than regular cards and come two to a pack. That’s 72 in a box and there are 32 in the set.
I was very excited to open these packs and, maybe, I could cobble together a set. I wasn’t tied to anything else I was opening and was happy to give them all away. My goal was to come away with a complete set of Rub Downs and I announced to the long table that, if anyone didn’t want theirs, they should send them my way.
To my surprise I didn’t do very well, leaving with only about half the set. However, the sharing philosophy of Pack Night does not end at the door. I put out an ask to our Cooperstown group via Twitter DM and I was quickly two shy of complete. Those last two were easy to find on Sportlots, cheaply (even though one Rub Down featured Steve Carlton and the other Mike Schmidt).
Fun to put together, fun to have. There’s a 1985 set, but some of the Rub Down sheets are the same as the 1984 version, the only difference being the date stamp. There are new players – Gwynn, Boddicker, Gooden,etc. – scattered throughout. Maybe I’ll buy one, but one set may be enough. It wouldn’t be the same anyway; my 1984 set is inextricably connected to a special weekend in Cooperstown, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Baseball announcers occupy an odd space that straddles the line between team members and adoring fans. They often enjoy tenures longer than players and managers and can weather multiple ownership changes. Some broadcasters even become so connected with a ballclub’s identity that their popularity rivals the team’s Hall of Fame ballplayers. Numerous broadcasters have been inducted into team halls of fame and 47 individuals have received the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball,” an honor that includes recognition (but not official enshrinement) at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In fact, beloved announcers such as Harry Kalas, Bob Uecker, Dave Niehaus, Harry Caray, Ernie Harwell, and Jack Buck have been immortalized with statuary at the ballparks where they called (or continue) to call games for their given teams. Yet, there is seemingly little love paid to announcers by card manufacturers, especially with national issues.
The Trading Card Database (“TCDB”) lists just 471 results for a search of baseball cards in the “announcer” category, with the first result appearing in 1933. This list includes cards depicting nightly sportscasters and disc jockeys, which would tend to indicate that the “announcer” label is often used as a catchall for any on-air broadcasters, not just play-by-play commentators or game analysts.
The labeling issue becomes more apparent, however, when totaling the number of cards for the broadcasters who have been bestowed the Ford C. Frick Award. This number is 580, over 100 more cards than found on the “announcer” list.
Searching TCDB by individual broadcasters’ names demonstrates conclusively that the “announcer” label (“ANN”) is not used with any consistency. For example, a search for “Vin Scully” will produce 114 results, cards spanning from 1960 through 2023, including parallel releases and autographed editions. A search of “Vin Scully” and the “ANN” qualifier, however, produces only two results.
Considering that Pittsburgh’s KDKA first broadcast a baseball game on August 5, 1921 (an event itself worthy of commemoration on a baseball card), it seems incredible how few broadcaster cards have been issued in the past 100 years. Indeed, utility infielder Tommy LaStella has had more cards issued since 2011 (586) than all of the Ford C. Frick Award winners combined (580).
Radio (Baseball Card) Pioneers
The 1933 Minneapolis Millers of the American Association were managed by future Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft and featured first baseman Joe Hauser, who clobbered an incredible 69 home runs that season. Although Wheaties is best known for its collectible cereal boxes, the company also promoted minor league baseball across the country and particularly in Minneapolis, hometown of parent company General Mills. That season, Wheaties issued a set of 24 postcards (4″ by 5-9/16″) featuring the players, manager, and for the first time ever documented, a team’s radio broadcaster.
Jerry Harrington, dubbed “The Little Irish Tenor,” was a multi-talented performer for WCCO radio and was often called upon to sing and participate in dramatic productions for the station. In 1929, Harrington broadcast play-by-play accounts of the Millers’ away games from the sports office of The Star and beginning in 1930, was tabbed to broadcast both home games from Nicollet Park and the away contests. The 1933 Wheaties Harrington issue is his one and only baseball card.
A second set of similarly designed and sized postcards were purportedly produced by Wheaties for the Seattle Indians in 1933; however, only five postcards from this set have been found so it is unclear whether they were ever released to the public. One of the cards that has surfaced, however, is that of Indians broadcaster Leo Lassen. Lassen was named the publicity director of the Pacific Coast League Seattle club in 1931 and began broadcasting games for the team that season. He was a mainstay radio voice of the Indians and Seattle Rainiers through 1958 and was inducted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 1974. The 1933 Wheaties Lassen issue is his one and only baseball card.
In 1938 Chicago’s Sawyer Biscuit company issued a set of 52 cabinet photos depicting Chicago Cubs and White Sox players available as a mail-in promotion. The set included Bob Elson, a tireless broadcaster who handled the home games for both the Cubs and White Sox from 1931 through 1942 for WGN radio.
TCDB also lists a second “broadcaster” card for Babs Gillen, but no example of the card has ever been found. According to some sleuthing by Pre-War Cards it appears that Delores “Babs” Gillen was Elson’s broadcast partner for certain radio programming, but she was not known to announce baseball games with him. Regardless, the Elson cabinet photo appears to be the first issue for a Major League broadcaster.
The Emergence of Baseball on the Radio
As of the 1940 Census, 28 million households in the United States (82.8% of the population) owned a radio and baseball owners began realizing that broadcasting games—both home and away—was a terrific way to promote live baseball at their respective ballparks, especially on the home front during World War II. Still, very few broadcaster cards were issued in the 1940s.
The Reds sold a boxed team card set in 1940 called the “The Cincinnati Reds by Harry Hartman, Radio Sports Expert” published by the Harry Hartman Publishing Company. Coincidently, Hartman was the radio voice for the Reds on WCPO and was entering his 13th season behind the microphone in 1940, a season in which the Reds won their first World Series championship since defeating the Black Sox in 1919. A card featuring Harry Hartman was included in his namesake set.
The 1940 Playball set included a “Former Major League Star” card for Gabby Street, who had last played for Yankees in 1912 (although he had given himself an at-bat as Cardinals manager in 1931) and last managed for the Browns in 1938. The final line of his biography on the reverse of his card indicated “Today, he is doing baseball broadcasting in St. Louis.” Street was eventually paired with Harry Caray in the Cardinals’ booth, and they worked together from 1945 to 1950.
The balance of cards for the 1940s belong to Oakland Oaks announcer Bud Foster, with a string of issues in each of 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 sponsored by either Remar Bread or Signal Oil/Gasoline. Foster was voice of the Pacific Coast League’s Oaks from 1946 through 1956, as the team won three championships during his run (1948, 1950, 1954). In 1985 Foster reminisced how ballparks in the old days had no radio booths for him on the road so he would just set up behind home plate, which left him vulnerable to bombardment by cushions, peanuts, and insults hurled by the opposing fans. Additionally, Mel Allen was featured in Yankees Picture Packs in 1948 and 1949, with seemingly indistinguishable photos.
Video Killed the Radio Star
In 1950 approximately 9% of American households had a television, but by 1960 the figure had skyrocketed to 90%. Regardless, there were still just a smattering of announcer cards issued in the 1950s, even despite the rise of the national baseball card product offerings by Bowman and Topps that included non-players such as umpires and league executives.
In 1954, future Ford C. Frick Award winner Bill King was named fulltime sports director at KOLN and KOLN-TV in Lincoln, Nebraska and took over the play-by-play announcing duties for the Western League Lincoln Chiefs. Weaver’s Wafers were a potato chip brand that issued a set of cards for the Chiefs in 1954 that included a card for King that encouraged fans to follow the team on KOLN. Despite King having announced for the San Francisco Giants from 1958-1962 and the Oakland A’s from 1981-2005, the 1954 issue is the only card that appears to have been issued for the venerable broadcaster. The card itself is exceedingly rare and the distribution method is sure to send shivers up the spines of condition conscious collectors—the cards were affixed to the outside of the potato chip bags with staples!
Future Ford C. Frick Award recipients Russ Hodges (New York Giants and San Francisco Giants) and Lon Simmons (San Francisco Giants) both appeared on a number of team-issued cards at the end of the 1950s, but only in their capacity as broadcasters for the San Francisco 49ers football team. Simmons did not get a proper baseball card until 1999, the Giants’ final season in Candlestick Park. His famous home run call “Tell it Goodbye!” was a fitting farewell to the ballpark, where he had broadcast since the Giants first began playing there in 1960.
The final announcer card issued in the 1950s featured Mark Scott, host of the popular Home Run Derby television show. The 1959 Home Run Derby baseball set contained 20 cards measuring 3-1/4” by 5-1/4” and included the participants in the game show filmed at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. Scott died unexpectedly on July 13, 1960 from a heart attack and the show did not return for another season.
Vin Scully and the Rise of the Beloved Broadcaster
The first TCDB entry for Vin Scully is the 1960 Union Oil 76 “Meet the Dodger Family” booklet, which he shares with Jerry Doggett. Scully’s first proper baseball card—a whopper at 4” by 6”—is the 1971 Ticketron Dodgers issue, which also happens to feature Jerry Doggett, with whom he worked from 1956 through 1987. All told, Scully is the leader of all broadcasters with 114 different cards listed on TCDB. Perhaps surprisingly, however, Scully did not make another appearance on a baseball card until 2004, when Fleer produced a 10-card “Greats of the Game” subset that paired announcers and players, such as Scully/Steve Garvey, Harry Caray/Ryne Sandberg, and Jon Miller/Cal Ripken Jr. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of Scully’s cards were issued after he had already turned 77 years old.
Vin Scully’s first inning broadcast partner for the 1989 All-Star Game was former Chicago Cubs broadcaster (and newly former POTUS) Ronald Reagan. Reagan made a cameo on a recent Bo Jackson card, as a broadcaster.
Ernie Harwell is next on the list with 80 cards. Harwell is best known for his work for the Detroit Tigers after stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and Baltimore Orioles. By the time his first card was issued in 1981, Harwell was already beginning his third decade of work as the Tigers’ main play-by-play announcer. Harwell holds the distinction of having been traded for a player when he was acquired by the Dodgers to broadcast in 1948 from the Class-AA Atlanta Crackers in exchange for minor league catcher Cliff Dapper. Harwell broadcast for the Detroit Tigers from 1960 to 1991 and 1993 to 2002. Detroit’s Wayne State University’s baseball team plays its home games at Harwell Field, named in his honor.
Harry Caray is third with 68 cards. Caray’s first known card is a playing card with a photo shared with another Chicago broadcasting legend, Jack Brickhouse, issued in 1985 (40 years after Caray broadcast his first game for the St. Louis Cardinals.) Caray popularized the live singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while a White Sox broadcaster and made the tradition so popular at Wrigley Field that a video of him signing the song is still played for the seventh inning stretch when the Cubs do not otherwise arrange for a celebrity to handle the honors. Perhaps Caray’s most interesting baseball card is his cameo on Michael Jordan’s 1995 Upper Deck, featuring a photo taken at Wrigley Field when the White Sox visited for an exhibition game against the Cubs on April 7, 1994.
Mel Allen boasts 58 cards and was awarded the first-ever Ford C. Frick Award in 1978, along with Red Barber (the only year in which more than one award was given). Allen, a 1937 graduate of the University of Alabama Law School, immediately pursued a career in broadcasting and handled CBS radio duties for the 1938 World Series. He was hired as the Yankees’ play-by-play announcer in 1940 and saw 12 championship teams from his position behind the microphone through 1964. Allen eventually returned to the Yankees broadcast team in the mid-1970s, but it was his work with This Week in Baseball starting in 1977 that made Allen’s voice synonymous with Saturday baseball highlights to kids across the country. How about that?!
Rounding out the top five is Philadelphia’s Harry Kalas with 33 cards. Kalas first appeared on a Tastykake card in 1984, along with fellow Phillies broadcasters Chris Wheeler, Andy Musser and Richie Ashburn. Kalas began his broadcasting career in 1961 with the Hawaii Islanders and made his Major League announcing debut with the Astros in 1965. After moving over to Philadelphia in 1971, Kalas became a mainstay in the booth, working side-by-side with Ashburn until Ashburn’s unexpected passing in September 1997.
Comprising some of the most popular men to ever call a baseball game, Vin Scully has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (and a statue at Dodger Stadium cannot be far behind). Ernie Harwell has a statue at Comerica Park in Detroit. Harry Caray has a statue at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Mel Allen has a plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium in New York. Harry Kalas has a statue at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. A bust of Jack Buck is displayed outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis. And Bob Uecker (who has 23 cards for broadcasting and another 51 related to his role as a player) is honored with two statues at American Family Field in Milwaukee.
By contrast, Denny Matthews has just two cards, despite having been inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame and having been in the Kansas City broadcast booth since the team’s inception in 1969.
Similarly, Jaime Jarrín, the Dodgers’ Spanish-language play-by-play announcer from 1959 through 2022 (also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) only has two cards.
Felo Ramirez was the Spanish radio announcer for the Miami Marlins from 1993 until April 2017. His prior broadcasting work included calling Roberto Clemente’s 3000th hit, and Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. Despite his distinguished career, no cards of Ramirez have ever been listed on the TCDB. All three of these men are Ford C. Frick Award recipients. In fact, 36 of the 47 Frick Award winners have nine or fewer cards, with eight having none.
Card manufacturers are seemingly content to issue the same card with a border in every conceivable color combination. Allen and Ginter issues feature eggs, spiders, and even the Taylor Ham versus pork roll debate. Yet, broadcasters remain largely ignored.
A closer inspection of the checklists for each of the broadcasters listed here quickly reveals that a large proportion of the most recent issues comprise rare, autographed cards or other limited releases for which photos are not even available.
The men and women who dedicate their lives to the craft—and provide the soundtrack for our collective summers—deserve more cardboard love. These amazing tributes by Mike Noren of Gummy Arts are a great start.
Mike Noren of Gummy Arts graciously allowed the SABR Baseball Cards Committee to include images of his cards in this article, including the Bob Uecker card, which has never been shown publicly before.
Jason Schwartz and Nick Vossbrink for their typically brilliant guidance and support.
TCDB is mainly crowdsourced and there are numerous examples of cards not marked with the announcer label or otherwise improperly classified. The numbers cited herein are as accurate as possible based upon the available information. Moreover, several broadcasters cover multiple sports and may have cards that are more properly classified as a football, Olympic or multi-sport issue. Regardless of sporting classification, all cards were counted, except for those individuals who were players and had separate playing-days cards issued. Playing-days cards were not included.
Entrance to Yankee Stadium, New York, Haberman’s, New York, 1920s.
There is no bigger name in baseball than Babe Ruth, and during his time, there was no bigger stage in the sport than the playing field at East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, the original Yankee Stadium, The House That Ruth Built.
Constructed in 11 months after Yankee owners Colonels Jacob Ruppert and the equally-ranked but more aristocratically-named Tillinghast (Til) L’Hommedieu Huston finally grew bone-tired of being second-class tenants at the New York Giants home at the Polo Grounds, the stadium opened on April 18, 1923. Costing $2.5 million, the park was the most expensive ball ground built to date. With three decks it was also the largest, and the first in the United States to carry the weighty designation of stadium. The opener drew more fans than had ever before seen a game, besting the headcount set at Braves Field in Game Five of the 1916 World Series by more than 20,000 fedoras.
Somewhere north of 62,000 devotees mobbed the new home of the Yankees, packing the aisles and corridors for 90 minutes during the pre-game festivities. It was like “a subway crush hour” one witness testified, mellowed only by the consumption of Volstead lager at 15 cents a stein by the Prohibition crowd.
The New York Evening Telegram noted the scents of “fresh paint, fresh plaster and fresh grass” in the air on a cloudy, windy spring day when the temperature struggled to reach 50.
Shortly after 3 pm, John Philip Sousa and the Seventh Regiment Band led a battalion of baseball barons and civic potentates into center field and played the national anthem to the raising of the Stars and Stripes. Witnessed by “pretty much everybody who was anybody” in the city, the American League pennant won by the Yankees in 1922 followed Old Glory up the pole. The pennant gathered the loudest cheer.
After a round of pre-game pleasantries, Umpire Tommy Connolly called “Play Ball” at 3:35.
The late afternoon start to the game didn’t sit well with one observer. “Some day New York will be convinced that 3 o’clock is the proper hour with the fans for a ball game to begin, but as yet owners persist in holding off for those half dozen fans from Wall Street who can’t make it so early.”
Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, running late to the ceremonies after choosing a proletarian train to the park, had to be plucked from the ticket lines and escorted into the stadium by the police.
Not everyone was lucky enough to get through one of the 40 turnstiles open for the event. The Fire Department ordered the gates closed with 25,000 hopeful patrons still outside the grounds. One latecomer, trying in vain to recover from a poorly-chosen subway connection, couldn’t get into the park for “money, marbles or chalk.”
Ruth hit two balls into the bleachers off Sam Jones during batting practice. The first landed harmlessly. The second splintered a wooden plank, scattering a group of young boys in one direction to escape the explosion, and then in another to capture the projectile.
In the third inning, he hit one that counted, smashing a slow, waist-high offering from opposing pitcher Howard Ehmke into the right field bleachers to drive in a pair of teammates and lead Yankees to a 4 to 1 win over his former team, the Boston Red Sox. A columnist for the New York Daily News depicted the scene:
From high noon on there had been a sound of revelry in the Bronx for Baseball’s Capital had gathered there its beauty and chivalry. But when the “Babe” tore into the ball the revelry became riot. The beauty and chivalry leaped to its feet and behaved unlike true beauty and chivalry should, tearing up programs, breaking canes, smashing neighboring hats and shrieking, shouting and howling. It was a notable ovation, or, as they say on some copy desks, demonstration.
A reporter described the homer, 325 feet or so into the right field bleachers, as one of Ruth’s best, a “terrific drive” that never rose more than 30 feet above the field. “And above all,” added the scribe, “it probably restored the old-time confidence of the ‘Babe.’ He hadn’t been going so good on the spring training trip. He was in great condition but he wasn’t smacking them.”
The Boston Globe wasn’t impressed. Ungenerously measuring the blow at 275 feet, the paper more accurately calculated the swing would have been nothing more than an out at Fenway Park.
It would have been a homer in the Sahara, retorted a Yankee partisan.
Ruth’s second wife Claire believed the round-tripper was her husband’s proudest moment. “He definitely talked about it more than any other homerun he ever hit,” she told one interviewer.
Ruth admitted he wanted to be the first to hit one into the stands in the new home of the Yankees. “I lost sight of the ball when the fans all jumped to their feet but I recognized the yell they let out,” Ruth explained. “I feel that I have been rewarded in part for all the hard work I put in preparing myself for the training season,” the New York outfielder concluded. “I guess there must be something in that old gag about virtue being its own reward.”
The Opening Day crowd couldn’t contain its admiration for the Babe. In the bottom of the ninth, fans hopped out of the bleachers and surrounded Ruth in right field until the game ended.
It all inspired New York Evening Telegram sportswriter Fred Lieb to name the park “The House That Ruth Built,”forever tying the man and the stadium together in the nation’s memory.
Entrance to Yankee Stadium, New York, Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co., New York, 1920s.An alternate view of the stadium’s entrance in the 1920s. Postcard manufacturers were not above retouching and colorizing a scene from the same stock black and white photograph.
It took years for the temple of baseball along the Harlem River to become formally known as Yankee Stadium. During all of the 1920s, the Associated Press attached an honorific article to the park’s name and lower-cased the Roman half of the sobriquet—“the Yankee stadium.” Other stylists upper-cased both halves of the title—“the Yankee Stadium.” The Great Depression leavened the label to simply “Yankee Stadium.”
Four particular collections of baseball cards connect Ruth to Yankee Stadium:
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992 (165 cards)
Upper Deck, Inserts, The House That Ruth Built, 2008 (25 cards).
Megacards, 1992, The Babe Ruth Collection
Sharing a common origin, it is no surprise that the cards in The Babe Ruth Collection closely resemble The Sporting News Conlon issues of 1991—1994. Top, Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992, Card 105; Sultan of Swat; bottom, The Sporting News Conlon Collection, 1992, Card 663, promotional, Game of the Century.
Babe Ruth led an expensive, excessive and extravagant life that sometimes crossed the border into alcoholic debauchery.
Frank Lieb tells stories of a detective reporting Ruth having trysts with six women in one night, being run out of a hotel at gunpoint by an irate husband, and being chased through Pullman cars on a train one night by the knife-wielding bride of a Louisiana legislator. The press kept quiet. “If she had carved up the Babe, we would have had a hell of a story,” said one scribe who witnessed the race.
His salary demands were an annual source of amusement and debate among the sporting press.
Colonel Til Huston tried to rein in the Babe in 1922. “We know you’ve been drinking and whoring all hours of the night, and paying no attention to training rules. As we are giving you a quarter-million for the next five years, we want you to act with more responsibility. You can drink beer and enjoy cards and be in your room by eleven o’clock, the same as the other players. It still gives you a lot of time to have a good time.”
“Colonel, I’ll promise to go easier on drinking, and get to bed earlier,” Ruth promised. “But not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, will I give up women. They’re too much fun.”
The high life caught up with Ruth in the spring of 1925. An ulcer put the slugger into the hospital for five weeks. It didn’t slow him down much. In August, he was suspended and fined $5,000 for showing up late to batting practice after a night on the town.
That fall, Ruth admitted he had been “the sappiest of saps” in an interview with Joe Winkworth of Collier’s magazine.
“I am through with the pests and the good-time guys,” Ruth declared. “Between them and a few crooks I have thrown away more than a quarter million dollars.”
Ruth listed a partial toll. $125,000 on gambling, $100,000 on bad business investments, $25,000 in lawyer fees to fight blackmail. General high living cost another quarter million.
“But I don’t regret those things,” Ruth said. “I was the home run king, and I was just living up to the title.”
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992.Card 103, Babe and his 54-ounce bat.
Four dozen bats waited for Ruth at the Yankees St. Petersburg training camp in 1928, some of the dark green “Betsy” color that powered many of Ruth’s 60 homers in 1927 and the rest the slugger’s favored gold. The bats averaged 48 ounces, 6 ounces less than Ruth had formerly swung.
“At last I’ve got some sense,” Ruth told sportswriter and cartoonist Robert Edgren that year. “I used to think Jack Dempsey was foolish to train all the time—but Jack never got fat, did he?
“So this winter I’ve been keeping up a mild course of training most of the time. I’ve done a lot of hunting and on top I spend my spare time playing handball, wrestling and boxing in Artie McGovern’s gym. But the diet is the big thing.”
“You can’t be a hog and an athlete at the same time,” McGovern admonished the Babe. “You eat enough to kill a horse.”
Ruth followed McGovern’s advice that spring, slashing his meat consumption and loading up on fruits and vegetables.
“More important,” said Edgren, “he still has a boy’s enthusiasm for baseball.”
McGovern’s watchful eye and the lighter lumber kept Ruth at the top of his game. So did his marriage to the ever-vigilant Claire Merritt Hodgson. Between 1928 and 1931, Ruth homered 195 times and drove in 612 runs.
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992.Card 121, Claire Hodgson.
The well-curated and comprehensive 1992 Megacards set traces Babe Ruth’s career in 165 cards. The set is divided into specific sections, among them year-by-year summaries of his baseball career, the records he established, his career highlights and anecdotes and remembrances by family members and teammates.
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992. Clockwise from upper left: Card 9, Ruth pitches Red Sox to 24 wins in 1917; Card 16, wins batting title in 1924 with a .378 average; Card 22, knocks nine home runs in a week during 1930, including the longest ever hit at Shibe Park; Card 25, drives in 100 or more runs his 13th and last time in 1933.
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992. Top to bottom: Card 108, Ruth was the first player to hit 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 home runs in a season; Card 92, in 1934, Ruth led a group of American League players on a 17-game exhibition tour of Japan. A half-a-million or more fans watched the players parade through the Ginza on the second day of the expedition; Card 94, inducted into the hall of fame, 1939.
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992. The home runs.Clockwise from upper left: Card 72, First Home Run; Card 77, First Home Run in Yankee Stadium;Card 81, Babe and Lou combine for 107 homers; Card 93, Last Major League Homers.
Megacards, 1995, Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary
Megacards followed up its biography of Ruth with a 25-card set in 1995 to mark the 100th anniversary of the legend’s birth.
Megacards, Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary, 1995. Top to bottom: Card 5, 177 Runs Scored in 1921, Card 5; Card 12, Fishing with Lou Gehrig in Sheepshead Bay, 1927 ; Card 3, .847 Slugging Average in 1920. The Babe is pictured here with fellow sluggers Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Al Simmons in 1929.
Megacards, Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary, 1995. Card 11, the Red Sox pitching prospect threw nine shutouts in 1916.
Upper Deck, 2008, Yankee Stadium Legacy
In 2008 and 2009, Upper Deck marked the last season of the original Yankee Stadium by issuing an enormous 6,742 insert set, one card for every game played at the park or other historic sporting event that occurred on the grounds. Ruth is featured on many of the cards, either as a representative player for the day or because of a game highlight. The final card in the set documents Andy Pettitte’s win over the Baltimore Orioles on September 21, 2008.
Upper Deck, Yankee Stadium Legacy, 2008. Card 6742, Andy Pettitte.
The company also issued a more accessible 100-card boxed stadium legacy set. During his time with the Yankees, Ruth overshadowed all his teammates. Only Lou Gehrig pulled some of the spotlight away from the home run king. Still, it was a big shadow. “There was plenty of room to spread out,” said the Yankee first baseman.
Upper Deck, Yankee Stadium Box Set, 2008. Some of the Babe’s teammates.
Clockwise from upper left: Card 10, George Pipgrass; Card 5, Waite Hoyt; Card 9, Urban Shocker; Card 8, Earle Combs. Pipgrass led the American League with 24 wins in 1928. Hoyt won 23. Shocker won 49 games for the Yankees between 1925 and 1927. The speedy Combs scored 143 runs in 1932, one of eight straight seasons the centerfielder scored 100 or more runs. Most of the cards in the boxed set picture later members of the Yankee fraternity.
Upper Deck, 2008, Inserts, The House That Ruth Built
Upper Deck also distributed a separate insert set of 25 cards in 2008 under the title The House That Ruth Built. The first three cards highlight the 1923 season.
Later in the set, an eight-card sequence including numbers 8, 10 and 13, below, chronicles Ruth’s 60-home run 1927 season.
In a time of cellphone cameras and Instagram, it’s hard to remember that postcards were once the quick and inexpensive way to connect with friends and family.
Yankee Stadium’s early decades coincided with the postcard industry’s Linen Age. The cards were not actually cloth—a manufacturing process increased the amount of cotton fiber in the paper stock and created a canvas texture during printing. The ridges gave a soft focus to the cards and the higher rag count allowed deeper saturation of inks. Bright and vivid scenes with a wide palette of colors resulted. Yankee Stadium was a natural draw for the postcard manufacturers of the era.
Yankee Stadium, New York City. The Union News Co., 1937.Babe Ruth’s Opening Day home run would have landed in the lower left-center of this view.
Unattributed.Early view of outfield at Yankee Stadium in 1920s with flagpole in play.
“The Yankee Stadium is indeed the last word in ball parks,” wrote F.C. Lane of Baseball Magazine. “But not the least of its merits is its advantage of position. From the plain of the Harlem River it looms up like the great Pyramid of Cheops from the sands of Egypt.
“There is nothing behind it but blue sky,” Lane continued. “Stores and dwellings and the rolling hills of the Bronx are too far removed to interfere with this perspective…The Yankee Stadium stands out in bold relief and the measuring eye gives it full credit for every ounce of cement and every foot of structural steel that went into its huge frame. As an anonymous spectator remarked, viewing the new park from the bridge that spans the Harlem, ‘As big as it is, it looks even bigger.’”
Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co., New York City, Yankee Stadium, New York City, 1942.
The 1923 Yankee opener outdrew the rest of the American League openers, combined. More than one million fans passed through the turnstiles in the Bronx during the year. The count led the major leagues, but by a lesser margin than might be expected—the Detroit Tigers drew 911,000.
Acacia Card Company, New York, New York. Lights were installed in 1946.
The Yankees were one of the last teams in the American League to light their field. Only Boston and Detroit waited longer. “It’s not really baseball,” Lou Gehrig said of the nocturnal version of the game. “Real baseball should be played in the daytime, in the sunshine.”
Alfred Mainzer, New York City. A flag bedecked and sold-out stadium, 1951.
Upper Deck, The House That Ruth Built, 2008. The Last Appearances at Yankee Stadium.Top: HRB-24, Babe Ruth Day; bottom: HRB-25, Jersey Retired.
On April 27, 1947, Major League Baseball celebrated Babe Ruth Day at each of the seven games played that day (Detroit at Cleveland was postponed). 58,000 fans attended the event at Yankee Stadium. The other parks drew a total of 190,000 and the ceremonies were broadcast on radio around the world. Francis Cardinal Spellman delivered the invocation, describing Ruth as a sports hero and a champion of fair play. On the secular plane, Ford Motor Company gave the Babe a $5,00 Lincoln Continental.
The presidents of the National and American League presented Ruth a medal on which was inscribed the message “To Babe Ruth, whose tremendous batting average over the years is exceeded only by the size of his heart.”
Suffering from throat cancer, Ruth was able to muster a short farewell speech barely audible into the microphone. “There’s been so many lovely things said about me,” Ruth concluded. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to thank everybody.”
The New York Times said the ovation for the slugger was the greatest in the history of the national pastime.
Almost as an anti-climax, the Yankees retired Babe Ruth’s number 14 months later on June 13, 1948. But the cheers were still there. “He never received a finer reception,” wrote Oscar Fraley of the United Press. “It was a roar that sounded as if the 50,000 fans were trying to tear down The House That Ruth Built.”
The Sultan of Swat died an old man at the young age of 53 on August 16, 1948. His body lay in state for two days after his death at the main entrance of Yankee Stadium. Tens of thousands of fans paid their last respects to the slugger.
Megacards, The Babe Ruth Collection, 1992.Card 163, Game Called.
In 2023, there are dozens of baseball card sets at every price point. Any major star has thousands of cards available, with hundreds added annually. We can buy most cards we want in just a couple minutes, at a competitive price.
But 50 years ago, there weren’t nearly as many choices for collectors as there are today. There was the Topps set, sometimes a couple Topps inserts and test issues such as Super or Deckle Edge, and a few food issues such as Milk Duds and Kellogg’s. These sets weren’t made for the organized hobby, which was just as well because there really wasn’t much of an organized hobby in the 70’s.
What was the organized hobby in the early-70’s? There were a few thousand adult collectors nationwide. There were a few small card shows in and near major cities, along with a few hobby newspapers. They were invaluable in creating the knowledge base for the hobby. There were a handful of full-time mail-order dealers like Card Collectors Company and Larry Fritsch cards. They advertised through mainstream publications like The Sporting News, and produced their own catalogs that could number up to 100 pages. There were few storefront dealers, and no Internet. The first National Convention would wait until 1979.
TCMA emerged as the first card manufacturer that targeted the organized hobby. TCMA stood for “The Card Memorabilia Associates,” or the initials of the founders, Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein. The company was headquartered in Westchester County, north of New York City .
Their first sets included the SCFC “Sports Cards for Collectors” 1969 Yankees pictures (see Al Downing below) and an Old-Timers set. The latter set included pen drawings not only of Hall of Famers but forgotten players–that is, forgotten by all but SABR members.
1972 saw the first sets issued under TCMA’s name . They released several reprint sets of vintage issues such as 1887 Allen & Ginter and 1922 American Caramel. They also released the first few series of a set that would number over 500 cards featuring players from the 30’s. To cap it off, they produced a set of the Cedar Rapids Reds in the Class-A Midwest League, the first of hundreds of TCMA minor league team sets over the next 16 years.
Though TCMA would become best known for minor-league sets, their sets featuring vintage players deserve examination. They found a market among serious collectors of the time. Many 70’s collectors wrote away to players for autographs. There weren’t a lot of contemporary cards for stars of the 30’s and 40’s, and many collectors were hesitant to send off vintage cards for autographs for fear of losing them.
Enter TCMA—their sets had a clean design conducive to an autograph, and if they weren’t returned with an autograph at least it wasn’t a 1933 DeLong that was lost to the U.S. Mail or to a former player ambivalent to autograph requests. Many of these sets were designed to feature players who signed through the mail, in fact some dealers sent a list of player addresses along with the cards. This explains why many early TCMA cards offered on Ebay are autographed.
TCMA also offered sets that allowed collectors of modest means to own cards of 19th century players, along with 20th century players who didn’t appear on a lot of cards. One great examples are the 1936–39 Yankees Dynasty set, including not only greats like Gehrig and Lazzeri but journeymen like Paul Schreiber, who appeared in 12 major league games over two generations. What a great find for someone like me who has to have all the players, not just the legends! Others include the 1975 1951 New York Giants set and the 1972 The Yawkey Red Sox set. One of the largest early TCMA sets was the “All Time Greats” postcard issue. The set consists of several 24-card series of attractive black and white postcards. It covered virtually everyone in the Hall-of-Fame including executives like Lee MacPhail, Judge Landis and Will Harridge.
In 1975 TCMA expanded their offerings. To promote their retro and minor league sets, they produced their first catalog called “Collector’s Quarterly.” Through this catalog, they marketed their first sets of current major leaguers. Those came out under the SSPC (Sports Stars Publishing Company) label. There was a 1975 set for the Mets and Yankees, and then a 660-card set in 1976.
SSPC’s 1976 set was an attempt to challenge the Topps monopoly. They were sold only as a set and only to the hobby. The fronts had no team name or player name—a “pure card” design perfect for autographs. Topps cards had facsimile autographs many years and nothing is more awkward than an authentic autograph written over a fake one.
Topps took notice and went to court to stop the further release of these sets. TCMA was allowed to sell through their stock, which took several years.
SSPC would be heard from after 1976 though. In 1978, team sets were produced as pages in their magazines for several teams. A set of vintage players even appeared in the 1979 and 1982 Yankees yearbooks.
By the late-70’s, TCMA was becoming better known for minor league sets. TCMA representatives went to minor league general managers with a proposition- TCMA would take pictures of their team, and provide the team sets for sale in their memorabilia stands for free, in exchange for the right to sell team sets in their Collectors Quarterly catalog for $3–3.50 each team. TCMA photographers not only covered players, but sometimes managers, coaches, team executives, trainers, even bat boys and mascots!
By 1979 dozens of teams had TCMA sets, a number that expanded through the 80’s. By the time TCMA stopped production in the late-80’s, virtually every minor league squad had at least one annual team set, some had as many as three.
TCMA didn’t leave the vintage market. In 1978 and 1979, they produced attractive full color sets of players of the 60’s (in 1978) and the 50’s (in 1979). These sets were from 275–300 cards and featured both legends along with players who had never appeared on a card before. They followed up with a second series of 1960’s in 1981. All three sets are collectible today and not expensive.
TCMA also collaborated with large dealer Renata Galasso on several sets. They co-produced the annual 45-card retro sets included as a bonus with every purchase of current year Topps sets from 1977-84. These attractive sets are known as “Galasso Glossy Greats.”
Collectors were discouraged from pursuing TCMA’s sets by the hobby papers of the time. TCMA sets were considered “illegitimate” and “collector’s issues.” They weren’t considered fully collectible because they weren’t released in packs at candy stores, nor as a premium for another product. Most TCMA cards weren’t licensed by Major League Baseball nor the Players Association, or even the players itself. Nevertheless, TCMA thrived in a time where former players hadn’t monetized their career like today.
In the late-1980’s TCMA saw a formidable competitor for its minor-league throne, the Pottstown, Pennsylvania based Pro Cards. TCMA continued to release retro cards, but at a slower pace. At the same time Mike Aronstein, the head of TCMA, was acquiring a huge database of player photos and built a successful business providing 8×10 glossy pictures and other player items such as keychains. The TCMA label morphed into PhotoFile, which still markets licensed items for all major sports.
Aronstein and TCMA were before their time. TCMA cards aren’t always easy to find but are generally affordable considering their age and print run. Their sets are an important part of the history of the hobby. They deserve a look from every vintage collector and every baseball historian.
On a sunny afternoon in January 1992, a line of fans stretched from inside the Huntington Beach High School gymnasium, out into the parking lot. That Saturday, the gymnasium was the scene of a sports card show. And though eight-time MLB All-Star and former National League Rookie of the Year, Darryl Strawberry, and the L.A. Raiderettes were on site attracting their own throngs of fans, those standing in the longest line were not waiting to meet them. Instead, their line snaked its way to a table, behind which sat 19-year old Marc Newfield, a baseball player who to that point had never played a game above AA. Newfield was a hometown kid who, just a couple years before, played basketball in this same gymnasium versus rival Huntington Beach High School as a member of the crosstown Marina High School Vikings varsity basketball squad.
It was during his time at Marina High School that Newfield established himself as a star baseball player, one of the most heavily scouted hitters in the nation. In June 1990, the Mariners selected Newfield in the first round of MLB Amateur Draft. As a 17-year-old, he tore up the Arizona Rookie League, clubbing a mammoth homerun (some said it went nearly 500 feet!) in his first professional game on his way to batting .313/.394/.495 with 6 HRs and being voted the league’s MVP. Then, as an 18-year-old in 1991 in the High-A Cal League, his first full-length season, Newfield continued to flourish. In 125 games, he hit .300/.391/.439 and was named a Cal League All-Star and the MVP of his San Bernardino Spirit.
But at this card show, organizers had hired Newfield to appear and sign autographs. After signing for two straight hours, he paused for a respite, observing “My hand’s killing me. All these people…I never expected anything like this. I don’t know what’s going on.” The painfully humble Newfield was bewildered by the gaggle of grown adults waiting in a lengthy line on a Saturday afternoon for his signature.
Many of the dealers and collectors in attendance that day viewed Newfield as a commodity and believed his early professional success would help them make a buck. One vendor was selling his cards for $1.75 each and explained, “He’s $2.50 according to the book. Somebody else here is selling them for $3.50.” Another vendor was laminating Newfield’s cards, mounting them to small wood plaques, and selling the simple displays for $15. A Huntington Beach card shop proprietor on site that afternoon claimed to have 10,000 Newfield cards stocked away in his inventory, lecturing: “The idea is to buy his card cheap now and sell high when he’s made it.” He then held up a box, “There are 1,000 Marc Newfields in here. Hopefully, someday, this card will be worth $70 [similar in value to a Frank Thomas rookie card at that time], too. That’s $70 times 1,000.”
As demonstrated at the January 1992 card show, Newfield’s first two professional seasons launched him into the stratosphere of the baseball card hobby. Baseball card manufacturers, too, wanted a piece of the teenager. At the end of the 1991 season, Upper Deck had scrambled to send a photographer to San Bernardino’s Fiscalini Field to snap shots of Newfield in a Seattle Mariners uniform in what was described as a “just in case session.” Upper Deck did not want to run into the same issue it had a couple years earlier when it did not have a photo of Ken Griffey, Jr. in a Mariners uniform and was forced to airbrush his San Bernardino Spirit hat a lighter shade of blue in order to include him in its 1989 set. Similarly, here Upper Deck wanted to account for all contingencies in the event that Newfield, like Griffey, leapfrogged higher levels in the Mariners minor league system and reached the big leagues in early 1992.
That August 1991 day at Fiscalini Field, Upper Deck provided Newfield a #24 Mariners jersey to wear during the shoot. At the time, Newfield—who was more focused on his own season than the goings-on at the big-league level—had no idea that this #24 jersey with no name sewn on the back was that of Ken Griffey Jr. Even without the knowledge that this jersey was Griffey’s—and the added sense of pressure that such a comparison would inevitably stir in a teen—the modest Newfield, who at that point had not played higher than Class-A, was already uncomfortable being put on a pedestal. Lacking even the slightest hint of ego, he sheepishly confessed on the day of the Upper Deck shoot that though he was honored to be photographed and presented as a big-league talent, “It’s kind of embarrassing. It just seems like it’s not the right time.”
That whole season, Newfield had done his best to navigate the attention thrown his way. He’d been an attraction at ballparks around the Cal League, signing for young fans. He didn’t mind doing this—it came with the territory. But he admitted getting irritated “when the same people ask for me to sign over and over again. They bring 10 cards one day and five the next.” Though this constant attention might have led some young athletes to develop an attitude or sense of entitlement, Newfield handled it like a professional well beyond his 18 years. Tommy Jones, his manager at San Bernardino, explained in 1991, “He’s handled the off-field pressures of the season very well: baseball-card companies, national magazines, TV, radio, all the media,” adding that Newfield never let the attention affect his play or his relationship with his teammates.
Everybody in the baseball card hobby wanted a piece of Marc Newfield. In January 1992 Baseball Cards magazine named Newfield its “Hot Rookie” in a feature story. The Beckett Focus on Future Stars profiled Newfield twice—in August 1992 and April 1994. And Beckett Baseball Card Monthly showcased the young ballplayer, interviewing him for its April 1994 edition.
I was no different. I had my own Marc Newfield collection. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and by 1992 I was 7 years old and developing my own interest in baseball cards. When I acquired a Seattle Mariner, I put it in a special binder with other Mariners cards. I recently dug out that old Mariners binder and found six different Marc Newfield cards dating 1991 through 1993.
Two of those cards have always stood out to me, and I’ve long wondered the story of those cards and the player pictured in them. I ran an internet search for Marc Newfield and quickly discovered that since his professional baseball career ended in the late 1990s, the once-shy kid from Huntington Beach has, perhaps unsurprisingly, lived outside the public spotlight.
Fortunately though, after a little effort, I was recently able to track down Newfield and speak to him about his personal and professional journey, and of course, about his baseball cards. Like all of us, he’s grown up in the intervening three decades since these cards were issued. But he maintains a sharp memory of those early days of his pro baseball career. He’s also patient and generous with his time. The humble kid from the early 1990s maintains a low profile these days, and, consistent with the personality he showed as a teenage baseball star, he’s still eager to come through for others. It was a real pleasure discussing his cards, and as a result of those conversations, I’m now a bigger fan of his than when he was a hero of mine as a youngster.
The first card I’ve always loved is the 1991 Topps “#1 Draft Pick” (#529). It shows a 17-year old Newfield in his senior year of high school, wearing his Marina Vikings pinstripes. On one knee in a traditional amateur baseball pose, an aluminum bat leaning into his body, a Mizuno batting glove on his left hand, and stirrups showing from below mid-calf, Newfield displays the widest, most sincere smile ever featured on a professional baseball card. The obvious happiness in his face reminds me of the great joy that baseball has brought so many of us. Newfield told me that, indeed, the most fun he ever had on the diamond occurred, not during his ten professional seasons or when he was in the major leagues, but in high school. He specifically recalls the summer of 1989 following his junior year, when he was learning to play first base on a Mickey Mantle 16U team that won tournaments all over the nation before securing a National Championship at Waterbury, Connecticut. The reverse side of the card lists this accomplishment along with Newfield’s high school offensive statistics and many prep accolades, the sort of eye-popping achievements that explain the swarms of scouts in attendance at his high school games.
As a child, I did not understand why this Seattle Mariners baseball card did not show a player in a Mariners jersey. It made no sense. But it also made the card unique. None of the other cards in my collection had players wearing another team’s uniform. And back then, the card’s uniqueness made it stand out against others.
Perhaps my favorite card, though, is the 1992 Upper Deck Top Prospect (#51) checklist. I liked it for the same reason as the 1991 Topps card: it was unique. Newfield is not even in a baseball uniform, but rather street clothes, looking like a teenager waiting for a bus. And here, the card shows two players, a second unique trait!
Newfield stands with Montreal Expos prospect Rondell White, and each has a team-issued duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Newfield sports a San Bernardino Spirit hat, and his oversized outfielder’s glove pokes out of his unzipped bag. But I’ve wondered: why doesn’t he have a bat in his bag the way White does?
The card shows the two young men standing in grass, seemingly along a road. Newfield pointed out that in the card, he is wearing two different shoes—I’d never observed this detail before. The grey shoe on his left foot is actually a medical boot. Following the 1991 season, he had undergone a surgery to try to correct a foot issue that had been bothering him for years and had become increasingly painful. He was recovering from that surgery when Upper Deck staged this photo. That surgery, however, did not alleviate the pain, and he was forced to undergo a much more invasive foot surgery in 1992 that cut short his season at AA Jacksonville.
White’s right hand rests on Newfield’s left shoulder, like a nurturing big brother. Interestingly, Newfield explained that he and Rondell White had no prior relationship—they were not friends, nor did they enjoy a personal connection. Upper Deck simply paired them together for this card. Nevertheless, the men gaze, together, into the dream-filled distance.
Behind them is a short wire rope fence, and a post rises over their heads with two signs attached. One sign points left toward Seattle; the other right to Montreal—with this signage, the photo should have been taken in central North America at a geographic point between those two big-league cities. But rather, Upper Deck had flown White out to Orange County, California, where Newfield lived in Huntington Beach and was recovering during the offseason. They staged the photo nearby, along California’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway.
Newfield has his own favorite cards from his playing days, though unlike me, he was never much of a baseball card collector growing up. Early in his career, he admitted that seeing himself on baseball cards was exciting and surreal, if not a little odd: “I’ll get a card, or my friends get the cards, and we kind of laugh because we all grew up together. It’s weird that one of us would be on a baseball card.” In 1994 he told Beckett magazine that his favorite of his cards was the 1994 Fleer Major League Prospects (#26), in which he is shown following through on a swing, in front of a Mariners logo.
But these days, his favorite card is the 1996 Select Team Nucleus (#22) that pictures Newfield, with Padres teammates Tony Gwynn and Ken Caminiti. He smiles and suggests how “ridiculous” it was that Select included him on a Team Nucleus card in 1996. After all, the Padres had acquired Newfield from the Mariners at the 1995 trade deadline, and he’d played just 21 games in a Padres uniform by the time the card was produced. But those 21 games represented the first time in Newfield’s young career in which he was afforded the opportunity to play every day and adjust to big league pitching without fear of imminent demotion or losing his place on the lineup card. And Newfield excelled, hitting .309/.333/.491 during that stretch. That late season performance in 1995 landed Newfield on this 1996 Team Nucleus card alongside first-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn—Mr. Padre himself—and Ken Caminiti, who would win the NL MVP after that 1996 season and eventually land in the Padres Hall of Fame. And though he still thinks the card is ridiculous, Newfield values this card because he was featured alongside two baseball legends. It is also not lost on him that, of the three ballplayers on the card, he’s the lone survivor.
Though the vendors at the January 1992 Huntington Beach card show may be disappointed that Newfield’s cards won’t finance a lush retirement, I still enjoy flipping through my Marc Newfield collection and adding more to my growing set. Each card tells its own story. And now, after I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Marc Newfield and getting to better know the man pictured in the cards, they are more valuable to me than any others in my collection.
 Mike Penner, “Investing in Stars of the Future,” Los Angeles Times (Orange County Edition), February 2, 1992: 1.
 Mike Penner, “Investing in Stars of the Future,” Los Angeles Times (Orange County Edition), February 2, 1992: 1.
 Gregg Patton, “Majors seem in the cards for Newfield,” San Bernardino County Sun, August 23, 1991: C1.
 Gregg Patton, “Majors seem in the cards for Newfield,” San Bernardino County Sun, August 23, 1991: C1.
 Jim Callis, “On the Mark,” Baseball Cards, January 1992: 55.
 Matt Hayes, “Focus on Marc Newfield,” Beckett Focus on Future Stars, April 1994, No. 36: 20.
We’ve been following each other on Twitter for a few months now and when it became clear how popular the baseball card graphics were with this community I asked him if he’d agree to answer a few questions about himself, his designs, and his relationship to card collecting. Garrett graciously agreed to answer my questions and put a lot of thought into his responses. What follows here required basically no editing.
Nick: Looking at the Fox Sports story cards as well as your portfolio shows a lot of designs that distinctly reference physical prints. From things like worn edges, wrinkled paper, and scotch tape to seriously geeky things like reproducing halftone rosettes, creating two-ink looks, and including printing crop marks and registration it’s clear that you appreciate the history of graphic design and the fingerprints of its production. Can you talk about your design influences and whether the baseball cards are a natural progression from this or if they were something special for you?
Garrett: I make it a point to include a decent amount of texture and familiar printing techniques in my work so that it doesn’t feel digital and synthetic. Sometimes, all the little extra things that you mentioned can really elevate a design. It shows attention to detail. I used to go to antique stores a lot in college, and would keep an eye out for fine details that I could incorporate in my work.
While in college, I loved the work of Fraser Davidson, Michael Schwab and Darrin Crescenzi. Although they have extremely different styles, I was really drawn to each of them. Davidson has a fun and playful side to his work that I really love. He is also probably the best sports logo designer in the world. Schwab has an iconic and vintage style that is timeless. Lastly there’s Crescenzi, whose work is so elegant and modern. I always thought he had the coolest style of any designer. He made a pretty sweet Game of Thrones poster you should check out.
These days, I’m influenced by Neil Jamieson, Matt Lange, and TRAN LA. Most of the time I try not to pull inspiration for my work. I just try to make the best design with the images I find. I’m also inspired by the social team at FOX Sports. It’s pretty awesome that I have access to their PSDs* — not only because I can incorporate them into my work, but because I can dive in and see how they did something.
*.psd is the native Photoshop file format which preserves all layers, masks, etc.
I think making baseball cards at some point is a natural progression, but I just need to keep working hard and learning. There are so many great designers out there to learn from.
Nick: How did you choose the card designs you’ve been using since they’re as old as you are? Do you just like the “junk” era of cards or is that part of the general nostalgia marketing that’s currently directed at my generation?
Garrett: I gravitate to the ’90s era of card design simply because it reminds me of my childhood. I started asking my mom to buy me cards around at 10 years old, so that would be around 1996–97. I had mostly Topps and Upper Deck — which I always revered the most because I loved the shiny logo. Another reason for this is that I didn’t have the money to afford the “premium” cards.
Nick: Making digital web graphics look like physical objects is something I’ve thought about for long time with things like the Topps Bunt App. Sometimes I feel like it’s not fully embracing what digital is best at. Other times it’s a reminder that we have centuries of practice about what works best for communication. Outside of the way they look, what are your thoughts as a graphic designer about what it means to maintain and reference the concept of a physical object in the digital realm.
Garrett: I think it’s nice to have a little bit of both. Sleek and polished digital design certainly looks awesome when it’s executed the right way, which is how a lot of my favorite NFTs look. But adding the printed or real-world mistakes and imperfections just shows me that the designer took the time to add another layer of detail. I think there should always be room for digital art that looks organic or is a reference to mixed media. It gives things a warmer feel. Take a look at the work by Sergio Santos (@elsantosbaseball). He does this to the extreme, mostly because he paints everything, but also because he doesn’t care if it’s perfect, which is why I love his work.
Nick: Both regarding cards and regarding the other reference materials you’ve used (like the Harry M. Stevens scorecard), what’s your reference library like and is it part of your personal collection?
Garrett: My reference library includes a ton of cards from my youth, about 100 Sports Illustrated magazines that I saved (mostly from the late 90s) and hundreds of Starting Lineups. I also love buying printed things on eBay, like old postcards, money, and recently, a map of The Masters golf course at Augusta National. Aside from that, my main reference sites are Behance, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, IMP Awards, The Cardboard Connection, and Automobilist.
Nick: If you have a personal collection what do you collect and how long have you been collecting?
Garrett: I have a respectable junk card collection that isn’t worth anything from a collecting standpoint. Upper Deck and Topps were my favorite brands as a kid, and I would jump at an opportunity to work with either of them. Although I love cards, what I cherish most are my Starting Lineups. I love the packaging and they’re just nostalgic for me. My favorites are the 1991 Michael Jordan, and two Kobe Bryants (1996, 1998). They’re all in very good/mint condition, but I’ve never sent them in to be graded. I’m too nervous they will get banged up in delivery.
I bought three (Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Steph Curry) of the newly released NBA series, but I was underwhelmed. I really don’t like the new branding, and the size and packaging style of the originals can’t be beaten.
Nick: Your portfolio shows off the vertical images. Fox Sports however tends to emphasize the horizontal versions due to mobile site and social media preview reasons. I appreciate that the two versions are actual redesigns. Which aspect ratio do you prefer (if any) both in terms of creating the cards and in terms of the final product?
Garrett: I start with the vertical since that’s what the user sees first on the Home Screen. The art used to go full-bleed on the home screen before the FOX Sports app was recently redesigned, so that was always the main priority. I typically prefer the vertical also, since it’s more similar to one-sheets I’ve designed in the past.
Garrett: It’s a huge compliment. It’s always nice to see people appreciate your work, with whatever you do. I appreciate the time they took out of their day to do something like that. It’s really cool.
It seems like an impossible job—condense the history of baseball in the 19th Century to a set of one hundred cards. After all, it took Harold and Dorothy Seymour three hundred pages to cover the same ground in their collaborative volume Baseball: The Early Years. But that was the task undertaken by a small band of researchers in a set titled “The Origins of Baseball 1744—1899.”
Presided over by Jonathan Mork, the team included David Martin for artwork and Mer-Mer Chen for graphic design and photo restoration. Jonathan’s brother Jeremy authored the stories on the back of the cards. Issued by the American Archives Publishing Co. in 1994, the boxed collection logically balances most of its imagery between player and executive portraits, team photographs, playing fields and notable events. The year 1744 in the title refers to the date of an English woodcut of a game of Rounders included as card 3 in the set, below.
More than twenty-five years after printing, the cards need gentle handling. The black finish of the borders easily flakes.
Images were carefully selected from photographs and other illustrations maintained by the Hall of Fame’s National Baseball Library. The full-length studio photographs are especially striking in the card format. Clockwise from upper left: Jack Chesbro (card 92); Tony Mullane (card 66); Sam Thompson (card 93); and Paul Hines (card 37).
Noted personalities of the game include pioneering sportswriter Henry Chadwick (card 11), the grand old man of the game Connie Mack (card 84), and umpire Tom Connolly (card 72). The surprise is the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson (card 14). Said to be a fan of the game, Johnson is honored for allowing government clerks and staffers to clock out early when the Washington Nationals were scheduled to play an important game.
Team cards are an important part of the set. The collection naturally includes the founding Knickerbockers (card 5) and the undefeated 1869 Red Stockings (card 19).
The three powerful early Brooklyn teams are also pictured: the Atlantics (card 16), the Eckfords (card 9), and the Excelsiors (card 12). The Atlantics virtually monopolized the early championships of the sport. The Eckfords notched a pair of flags themselves. The third and deciding game of the 1860 championship match between the Atlantics and the Excelsiors produced one of the game’s first great controversies. With his team leading 8-6 in the sixth inning, Excelsior captain Joe Leggett pulled his club off the field when gamblers and Atlantic partisans in the crowd shouted one too many insults against his players. The two great teams never faced each other again. Leggett may have been incorruptible on the diamond; off was a different matter. Over the years, his hands found themselves in a number of tills to feed a gambling habit he could not afford. He disappeared in 1877 with $1,000 missing in liquor license fees from the Brooklyn Police Department Excise Bureau.
Teams of the 1880s are well-represented in the set. The Boston Beaneaters (card 98) were the most successful National League team of the 1890s, winning flags in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897 and 1898. The City of Chicago lent its broad shoulders to the development of baseball behind the likes of National League founder William Hulbert, star pitcher and later sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding, and five-time pennant winner Cap Anson. The 1886 team is pictured on card 45. The 1887 National League Detroit Wolverines (card 51) played a 15-game championship series that year against the American Association St. Louis Browns. Eight of the games were played on neutral grounds. Detroit claimed the flag in Game 11, played in the afternoon in Baltimore after a morning tilt in Washington.
The set doesn’t sugarcoat the game.
Above: Jesse “The Crab” Burkett of the Cleveland Spiders (card 88) earns a spot in the set for his role in a post-game melee in Louisville that saw the entire Cleveland team hauled off to jail. Edwin Bligh (card 31) scandalized the game when he was accused of fathering a child with a 17-year-old girl.
Below: Hard drinking plagued the early years of the sport. A detective once trailed Mike “King” Kelly (card 48) into the early morning hours, reporting the Chicago catcher enjoying a glass of lemonade at 3 a.m. at a local watering hole. Kelly denied the allegation. “The detective is a complete liar. I never drink lemonade at that hour. It was pure whiskey.”
Ed Delahanty’s attraction to the spirits had a grim ending (card 74). The only player to win batting titles in both the American and National Leagues, the outfielder was thrown off a train in 1903 near Niagara Falls by a conductor for being drunk and disorderly. He fell off a bridge into the Niagara River and was swept to his death.
Several cards highlight the playing fields of the day. A diagram of a New England version of the game is shown on card 10:
The decades of the 1850s and the 1860s are summarized on individual cards.
Top: Elysian Fields, the ancestral homeland of the game, is shown card 7. A game between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Philadelphia Athletics is shown on card 18. Gamblers congregate in the lower left. Seated umpires and the official scorers at their table take up station between home and first base.
Abraham Lincoln is featured on card 13 of the set. Commentary on the back of the card includes an early debunking of the theory that returning Civil War soldiers spread the game to the American South. As the back of the Lincoln card states, an especially robust strain of the game emerged in New Orleans before the Civil War. It sure did.
At least half a dozen baseball clubs were playing regularly by 1859. The Magnolia and Southern clubs squared off in one series; the Empire and the presiding elder Louisiana Base Ball Club played one match series against each other. The Louisiana club didn’t appear to take things as seriously as their younger counterparts. In one game, the patriarchs were forced to start with just eight players present, and in another with just seven. Other nines played side against side. The Orleans Club was active on and off the field of play, leading a political parade on horseback in red velvet caps on one occasion and giving a Mardi Gras masquerade ball on another.
The Magnolia and Southern clubs seemed especially well-suited to each other. After one game, the teams exchanged badges and then marched together to the United States Hotel for a round or two of drinks.
The clubs had trouble finding spaces for their games. The Third District, where many of the teams were located, had only three open fields. One behind Claiborne Circle was the province by seniority of the Black Racket clubs. White Racket clubs claimed the grounds near the Old Paper Mill behind the Pontchartrain Railroad by the same rights of prior occupancy. An open square on Claiborne Street was guarded by neighborhood youths known as the Squatters. When a Les Quatre club tried to use the field one day, the Squatters drew knives and pistols and ran them off.
The New Orleans Crescent described Racket as “the game of all games for the spectator,” a spirited Creole affair of base and ball with a high reputation for entertainment value, played with a short one-handed bat—the racket.
A box for a game between Les Quatre clubs shows a scored and umpired game of runs played in innings with 12 men to a side. By the following spring, the teams were described as baseball clubs.
City newspapers approved of all the play. The Sunday Delta observed:
Lately a furore has been started among us, which, if it only goes on progressing in the same spirit it has commenced, will make cricket and other games of ball as common in this section as they are in England. Whether it continues long or not, it will exercise a good influence as long as it lasts, and we see no reason for its abatement, as the better these games are generally understood, the more popular do they become.
The New Orleans Crescent apologized for not being to attend all the games. “There are now so many Base Ball and Cricket and Racket Clubs, and they play so frequently, appearing in the field nearly every day, up town, down town, and over the river, that we cannot keep the run of them.”
Up and down the great rivers of the United States the game still thrives, from town to town as the Crescent saw so long ago. One hundred cards cannot tell the whole story of the 19th Century game, but each card provides a path to a different chapter in the story. It’s a fine set, worthy of time and study. Listed for $25 or so on eBay, it’s a steal.
Images in this article have been brightened from original scans for presentation purposes. Master heckler William Gleason on card 36 is pictured before (top) and after modification (bottom).