Dimensional Baseball Cards

PSST! WANNA SEE MY DIMENSIONAL BASEBALL CARDS?

Challenge

He stood on the dresser over my sock drawer, coiled, ready to strike.

His crisp white uniform was pierced by stabs of red streaking up his leg.

Stan “The Man” Musial stood before me, immortalized in plastic by Hartland, and I was in awe.

I was maybe 4 or 5 (1962-63), and I didn’t know who he was. My brother or someone of that ilk had set him there. I dare not touch him.

Musial.png

Stan the Man – a vision in plastic!

The memory of that statue is burned into my memory like a first kiss. It was one of my first introductions to the national pastime, and it punched my ticket to a lifetime of hopeless devotion.

The Musial statuette disappeared when a fog bank enveloped our house in San Francisco. When the mist cleared, boxes of baseball cards and comic books filled the room. I recalled seeing sexy ads in those comics for Aurora’s “Great Moments in Sports” models kids could build: there was my hero, Willie Mays, hauling in Vic Wertz’ blast in the ’54 World Series. Johnny Unitas. Jim Brown. Even Gene Firpo knocking Jack Dempsey out of the ring! I can’t recall why, but I never got one of those models, nor any of the baby boomers on my block (and we had a ton of ‘em). But another long-germinating seed was planted.

Mays

Aurora Glory: Willie robs Vic Wertz!

I forgot about those Hartland statues for about 50 years. Memory kicked in when I went to Cooperstown for my first visit to the Hall of Fame in 2013. The gaggle of Times-Square-on-the-Lake memorabilia shacks offered faded versions of the old Hartland statues at prices best suited for lawyers, doctors, and stockbrokers. There was Musial, trapped inside a case, but sharing time-travel secrets with Willie Mays and Yogi Berra.

Here’s current eBay prices for some of those original Hartlands, including the rarest bird of all, Dick Groat. Prices vary, as some come without the original box (shrug).

Yogi

Musial: $56

Mays: $38

Fox: $40-$115

Drysdale: $150

Banks: $120

Babe: $54-$120

Yogi: $115

Mathews: $120

Aaron: $160

Groat: $1300!

Groat

I found a Groat that sold for $780 at auction, and the selling house claimed it’s rare because Hartland was sold to Revlon Cosmetics in 1964, Groat being the last of the final edition, and they ramped down production. Also, at the time of issue, Hartland statues were experiencing a sharp decline in sales.

After my visit to Cooperstown, a switch was flipped, and a trip to eBay was scheduled.

The heavens parted, and a choir sang. I discovered that reprints of the old figures were available at prices the hoi polloi could appreciate. I did not see any Musials, but Warren Spahn caught my eye, and he was ticketed for a trip to the top shelf in my office. A second surprise discovery was that another outfit was re-producing Hartlands, and I put the snag on an Eddie Mathews. This re-pro was produced in a manner that did not harken to the days of yore as the Spahnie had. Lessons learned.

Spahnie, in residence with tiny Wade Boggs and The Creature.

Spahnie 

Ed Mathews 1988 edition. Sad face.

mathews

Then, Phase II kicked in.

Around 2002, my son had developed a fascination with the Big Unit, Randy Johnson. Strolling through Toys R Us, we ran into a dynamic figurine of him created by McFarland. Randy found a home on Matt’s shelf next to a Formula 1 racer. Then I forgot all about those McFarlanes.

Flash forward to 2011. I was making a film about the Baseball Reliquary, Not Exactly Cooperstown, and I needed a prop figure that looked like Wade Boggs. I trawled eBay and found a Yaz McFarlane that would be a fine stand-in for Boggs. My art director, Greg Jezewski, crafted a fabulous clay mustache onto Yaz and we were good to go. I also needed a catcher and an umpire to stage my scene with Boggs and found the perfect duo: Jason Varitek, in the squat, who came with an ump.

Varitek

Varitek and friend assume the position.

Aaron

Hammerin’ Hank Aaron was also needed to re-create his 714th home run, and the McFarlane not only had a fantastic pose, it looked like the man himself. A call went out to procure a Jackie Robinson figure, and there was #42, sliding into home plate, his cap lying in the dirt.

jackie

Jackie slides into the Baseball Reliquary’s “glorious attic” for my film, Not Exactly Cooperstown.

My eBay safaris had disclosed there were lots of these McFarlane baseball greats in the universe, and full-blown mania set in. Soon the mailman delivered a delightful parade of figures destined for the man-cave.

Gibson

“Hoot” Gibson in residence.

First was a spectacular (and pricey) Bob Gibson in glorious follow through. He would make a swell tandem with Yaz if I ever need to re-create moments from the 1967 World Series.

Kirkland

McFarlane was going for Mays, but we got Willie Kirkland’s face instead.

Willie Mays, my hometown hero, was next, and a bit of a disappointment. He looks more like Carl Mays than Willie. The M&M boys followed as a duet; the poses were great, the resemblance passable. Nolan Ryan’s pose is marvelous: the Express scrunched in wind-up, about to give birth to a heat-seeking missile. I scored a bit of a dinged up Tom Seaver with part of the brim of his cap nicked.

Posey

Buster has gone up in price: now $50!

I don’t go in for many contemporary players, but Buster Posey made the cut with a dynamic pose. I also ended up with a Barry Bonds figure that was acquired before the real mania kicked in.

yazClemente

Roberto shares a locker with Yaz, swapping batting tips and recipes.

Then there are the jewels in the crown. Roberto Clemente (the priciest of the bunch), which bore a great resemblance to El Magnifico, resplendent in his 1971 double knit Pirates uni. #44, Willie McCovey of my Giants, looks fantastic in his orange jersey and killer sideburns, ready to annihilate a fastball with his whuppin’ stick (a version of Big Mac in his SD Padre uni is also available).

McCovey

Beware of Willie McCovey and his fantastic sideburns!

MickBabe

Mickey, Hank & the Babe play bridge on Thursdays, BYOB.

Seaver

Tom Seaver hangs out with BB King’s custom Gibson 335 ES.

Some of the squad ended up being sold to recoup production costs: adios to Jackie, Varitek and the umpire.

A deeper dive was now required to see who else existed in the McFarlane baseball figure universe (they do other sports as well) and how much it would cost to indulge.

McFarlane got into the figure biz in the early ‘90s, producing figures of their own intellectual properties after a deal with Mattel fell through. Their first baseball set came out in 2002:

  • Pedro Martinez
  • Ichiro
  • Randy Johnson
  • Shawn Green
  • Ivan Rodriquez
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Albert Pujols
  • Mike Piazza

Gehrig

A total of 33 (!) series have been produced. There’s a sub-set, “The Cooperstown Collection,” featuring legendary players like Ruth, Cobb and Lou Gehrig (there’s even a figure of Gehrig giving his “Luckiest Man” speech). Here’s the gang from the 1st Cooperstown Collection series (2004):

A number of players have multiple versions (or “variants,” which has the player in a different jersey or uniform, e.g., Ruth with the Red Sox and the Yankees). Here’s the priciest, acc. to eBay:

Cobb

Ty Cobb variant ($80)

Christian Yelich ($60)

Roberto Clemente ($60)

Bob Gibson ($50)

Buster Posey ($50)

John Smoltz ($40)

Anthony Rizzo ($38)

Jeff Bagwell ($38)

Rickey Henderson ($35)

Hank Aaron ($35)

It’s irritating to see contemporary players like Yelich commanding more dough than guys like Clemente!

Bargain Basement:

Babe Ruth (!) $1

Scott Kazmir ($1)

Chipper Jones ($6)

Greg Maddux ($8)

I’d like to present my wish list of players, managers, and mascots for the next series:

  • John McGraw
  • Norm Cash (with table leg as bat)
  • Don Mossi (with ears you can size to your liking)
  • Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner
  • Jimmy Piersall (perhaps one of him in mid-breakdown, climbing the backstop   at Fenway)
  • Jim Bouton (Seattle Pilots edition)
  • Seattle Pilots manager Joe Schultz (pounding the ol’ Budweiser)
  • The San Diego Chicken (aka “The Laurence Olivier of Mascots”)
  • Al Schact
  • Max Patkin
  • Connie Mack

How about an All-Miscreants Team?

  • Hal Chase (infamous scoundrel)
  • Denny McLain (recently referred to as “a bull that carries his own china shop with him”)
  • Cap Anson (virulent racist)
  • Billy Martin (beating up a marshmallow salesman, please)
  • Joe Pepitone (complete with hairdryer and toupee accessories)
  • The Chicago Black Sox
  • Albert Belle

The possibilities are endless! I’d love to see a collection of baseball writers (Grantland Rice, Jim Murray), fans (Hilda Chester), Negro Leaguers (Oscar Charleston, Satchel and Josh Gibson), maverick owners (Bill Veeck, Sr., Bill Veeck, Jr., & Mike Veeck would be a sweet power trio) and lovable oddballs (Eddie Gaedel, Moe Drabowsky, Frank Robinson in Kangaroo Court get-up).

 

Who knew playing with dolls would be so much fun?

 

Links to Hartland and McFarlane goodies!

 

McFarlane Cooperstown Collection:

 

https://www.cardboardconnection.com/mcfarlane-cooperstown-collection-figures-guide

 

Video of the Hartland collection from 1958-1962: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t5XHcNY-p8

 

1888 WG 1 – Baseball Cards and Franklin County, Kansas

The Franklin County Kansas Historical Society was formed in 1937, and along the way we have acquired quite a few interesting donations.  We have a pretty tight acquisitions policy — if an item does not have a strong tie to Franklin County, we pass on acquiring it. That limits your ability to add baseball cards to your collection when you live in a county that has only produced two major leaguers.

Our first big leaguer was Lou McEvoy, who pitched for the Yankees in 1930-31, but was a long time Pacific Coast League player so he appeared on Zeenut cards in 1929 and 1933-36.

McEvoy Zeenut

Willie Ramsdell was a knuckleballer from Williamsburg, Kansas. He appeared on the 1951 and 1952 Bowman sets, the 1952 Topps set and 1953 Mother’s Cookie set. Below is a picture of a recent item we had on exhibit at the museum, I lent the cards pictured to the museum.

ramsdell-plaque-photo.jpg

While the FCHS do not have any cards in the collection of the players above, we do own the two cards below.

Otto Schomberg, RF Indianapolis.

1888 Schomberg

Dick Johnston CF Boston.

1888 Johnston (1)

 

The backs look like this.

1888 WG 1 Back

These are WG1 Baseball Playing Cards, manufactured in 1888. These cards were sold as a boxed set, and they depict nine players for each of the eight National League teams that year.  You forgot that Indianapolis was in the NL that season didn’t you?

Otto Schomberg is the right fielder for Indianapolis and in the upper right-hand corner you can see there is a playing card with six pips on it.  All eight of the right fielders are sixes, which is the lowest valued card in the deck of this game. Catchers are aces, pitchers are kings, and shortstops are queens.  I guess the game designer must have assigned the value according to his perception of the defensive spectrum at the time.

Along the bottom left edge of the Dick Johnston card you will see a number scrawled in ink. That is a Franklin County Historical Society catalogue number, and I was horrified when I saw it.  “You wrote on it?!?!”  But that is how museums do things.  Still I shudder a little when I see it.  The Schomberg card is similarly marked, however at least that one was done on the back.

The set has some interesting players, such as Connie Mack as a catcher for Washington and the reverend Bill Sunday is the Pittsburgh right fielder.  Along with Mack, Hall of Famers John Clarkson, Sam Thompson, Ned Hanlon, King Kelly, Pud Galvin, Tim Keefe, John Ward, Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, Roger Connor, and Deacon White are all pictured. That’s a total of 12 in a set of just 72 cards.

You may be wondering, why we have these cards in our collection since they aren’t Franklin County natives? Well, I don’t know why we have the Johnston card, he has no apparent ties to the county. Schomberg however died in Ottawa, Kansas, on May 3, 1927.  Schomberg was returning to his home in Milwaukee from California via train. He had a heart issues and passed away on the train as they were passing through Ottawa.

However, there is one other card in that set, which we do not have, that has a fascinating tie to Franklin County, Charlie Bennett.

1888 Bennett

In 1893 the 38-year old Bennett caught about half the games for pennant winning Boston Beaneaters. That winter he and John Clarkson along with their wives went to Williamsburg, Kansas to train together for the next season. Bennett’s sister, Elvira Porter, lived in Williamsburg and this was the third year he had wintered there according to the Wellsville Globe.

In 2016 when we created an exhibit entitled “SMALL-TOWN BALL: PLAYING AMERICA’S GAME IN OTTAWA AND FRANKLIN COUNTY.” Diana Staresinic-Deane told the story of Bennett’s accident this way.

“Although accounts vary from newspaper to newspaper, it is believed that Charlie Bennet had been preparing to go to New Mexico on a hunting trip and traveled to Kansas City on January 10 to purchase supplies. While on the train returning from Kansas City he was in a (possibly heated) discussion with another passenger who he followed out onto the platform at Wellsville, Kansas.   When the train began to move, Bennett attempted to board the car, but as he grasped the rail, his right foot slipped and threw the leg under the car. According to the Ottawa Daily Republican, “Bennett says that he heard the bone crack, realized the accident and threw himself down in an effort to roll the other leg out of danger, but the fall instead resulted in throwing it, too, under the cruel wheels.”

Fortunately for Bennett, Dr. Lamphear, a surgeon with the Kansas City Medical School, was also on the Santa Fe that day, and he was soon joined by Wellsville’s Dr. Ewing.  Both of Bennett’s legs were crushed and Dr. Lamphear severed one foot which hung by a shred. Bennett was then transported to Ottawa, but according to the Ottawa Daily Herald, the hospital could not receive him. Bennett was then moved to a hotel – possibly the Marsh House – where Drs. Herr, Bryan, and Ewing amputated both legs, one above and the other below the knee. Bennett was eventually moved to the Santa Fe Railroad hospital in North Ottawa, where he began his recovery.”

How would you like to be the maid that had to make up the room after that?

All the cities mentioned above, other than Kansas City, are within Franklin County.  The accounts above are pulled from local newspapers at that time, so the story may vary from what you have read in other places.

 

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Oddballs

Mincher GI

The very first post I submitted focused on the variety of cards and related memorabilia featuring Don Mincher on the Seattle Pilots. One of the Mincher “cards” was from, arguably, the worst baseball card set ever issued: 1969 Globe Imports mini-playing cards.

My history with the cards dates to the early 1970s, when I bought a set from a liquidation store in Yakima, WA for 25 cents. I can’t remember if the deck was sealed or held together with a rubber band. Over the ensuing 40 years, I lost several, making me nine cards shy of a complete set.

Mcovey

These little “gems” measure 1-5/8” x 2-1/4” and are printed on thin white cardboard. The photos are more akin to photocopies than actual prints. The 52 murky, black and white images have the player’s name at the bottom, but team names are absent. Some players appear on two different suits. The backs are blank, except for a red checked variation.

The two or three of you who have read my past posts know that vintage oddball sets often have mysterious origins: Globe Imports is no exception. I could find no evidence of a location for the company. (Currently, there is a Brooklyn based battery seller with this name that has been in business since 1958. Did they once distribute playing cards?)* The cards lack copywrite information and the name Globe Imports does not appear.

 

 

Many of the photos are identical to the ones used on Sports Illustrated Posters, while some are Topps photo copies. The 2’ x 3’ Sports Illustrated posters — which first appeared in ’68 — had a promotional card corollary that were given away at stores that sold the magazine.  Additionally, a promotional poster — placed in stores –features many of the photos. Did Globe Imports simply pirate the images? Did the producer of the photos sell them to both SI and Globe Imports?

There is some credence to idea that an independent producer sold the photos. Many of the photos — along with Topps copies — are used in a cereal box set issued by Nabisco in ’69. This set has the logos airbrushed but is sanctioned by the MLBPA. The cards came on the back of “Team Flakes” and were distributed in three, eight card panels called mini-posters. The cards are less than two inches tall-suspiciously close Globe Imports size — making them a prime suspect as a copy source.

It wouldn’t be a vintage oddball set without divergent ideas on the year of distribution. The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards uses the commonly accepted 1969 issue year. However, some collectors believe that a set with MLB logos appeared first in ’68 and the airbrushed version in ’69, while others think ’69 and ’70 are more likely.

Distribution and sales information are other aspects of oddballs that tend to be missing, convoluted or contradictory. One source maintains that the cards were sold at gas stations in the south, while another has vending machines as the source. Of course, the vending machines could have been located at gas stations. Adding to the confusion, a current eBay seller’s description states that the cards are from K-Mart. Retail price and whether the cards were sold as decks-which seems logical-is uncertain.

Honestly, the Globe Imports are so lame that only a true oddball collector of oddballs would even care about the history of this set, let alone collect them. That being said, I’m off to Mayberry, NC to see if Gomer or Goober at Wally’s “fillin’” station still have a few Globe Imports lying around.

 

*My email to the current Globe Imports, inquiring about company history, was not returned.

Sources:

1969 Globe Imports Playing Cards, keymancollectibles.com/baseballcards/miscellaneoussets/1969globeplayingcards.htm.

“1969 Globe Imports Playing Cards.” Zistle, www.zistle.com/library/sets/14520-1969-globe-imports-playing-cards#_overview.

Glidden, Matthew. “Number 5 Type Collection.” 1969 Globe Imports Playing Cards Baseball #5, Willie McCovey, Earl Wilson, Bud Harrelson, Met Stottlemyre, www.number5typecollection.com/2012/06/1969-globe-imports-playing-cards.html.

“Oddball 1960s/70s Pete Rose Cards–Any Info?” Collectors Universe, forums.collectors.com/discussion/956534/oddball-1960s-70s-pete-rose-cards-any-info.

Mueller, Rich. “1969 Nabisco Team Flakes Baseball Cards Kept Kids Crunching.” Sports Collectors Daily, Sports Collectors Daily, 13 Jan. 2018, www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/1969-nabisco-team-flakes-kept-kids-crunching/.

My First Baseball “Cards”

ED-U-CARDS

The first baseball “trading cards” that I ever bought (or rather, my mom bought for me) were 1967 Topps, sometime in late spring.  But these were not my first baseball cards. No, my first “cards” were these guys right here.

img_0042.jpg

Packaged like a standard deck of playing cards, they made a game where two players would take turns playing through an inning, and then handing the deck to the other guy.

They were made by ED-U-CARDS and the copyright on the box says 1957.  I got them a decade later — I assume they were purchased at the checkout line of a grocery store.

These cards were part of my education about the game and how the various events played on top of one another.  Although I am sure I enticed my brother or someone else to play on occasion, I also spent hours just playing the game by myself.  Like solitaire, except that I was learning how the game was played.  A few months later I got some Topps cards, and I began to learn about the actual players.  Both purchases were significant childhood events in by path toward full-on baseball nerd-dom.

The very next year, Topps inserted “game cards” into their 1968 packs.  I was predisposed to love these cards and I did — I still believe it is unmatched in Topps insert history, the absolute GOAT — but as an actual “game” the Topps version was far inferior.  There were fewer cards, fewer game events, and the ED-U-CARDS illustrations were classic.  The HIT-BY-PITCH alone was worth playing the game for.

In subsequent years I ran across similar games that came out around the same time.  If you grew up in the pre-video-game era, everyone had “card games” like this.  A house that did not have an “Old Maid” card game laying around was a house you could not trust.

What follows are other examples of card games that I did not own as a child but encountered later on.

 

Built Rite

img_0043.jpg

The above game was put out by Built Rite (according to the box) and cost 29 cents.  There is no date.  I like the scooped edging — much easier to hold for a youngster.  In fact the box brags “Shaped Cards To Fit Small Hands.”  The game events are pretty much the same, but the game includes a “Diamond Card” where you are supposed to place coins to keep track of which bases were occupied.  That’s a nice touch.

 

Batter Up

IMG_0045

This “Batter Up” game is copyright 1949, and is very similar to the other games.  I came to love the bright yellow cards, but I have to admit these have a classy look and the illustrations are really well drawn.  Also, it came with a set of rules which folded out to make a diamond for game play.

IMG_0048

 

Earl Gillespie

IMG_0046

Earl Gillespie was the voice of the Milwaukee Braves when this game was put out in his name in 1961.  It is a very classy box and set up, and the game plays out like all the rest of them, but the illustrations are pretty basic.  Gillespie emphasizes the game itself, rather than the fun drawings.  Its well done.

He also includes a handful of score sheets which is — probably taking things a bit far?  I mean, who are the players in this scenario? As a bonus, he includes a sample — a scoresheet (the Braves batters) from opening day in 1961.

img_0047.jpg

 

The question “what is a baseball card?” is inevitably so tied up in personal memories of childhood that logic is no longer driving the bus.  You can classify these as you wish, but good luck prying them from my hands.

 

Sending a Transogram

Betts

Those collecting the 2018 Topps Heritage are aware of the subset featuring yellow boarders and blank backs. This format is an homage to the 1969 and 1970 Transogram cards. The fact that the original cards were distributed on the boxes containing toy player statues puts an examination of the topic squarely in my wheelhouse.

In ’69, Transogram-a long established toy and game company-decided to resurrect the baseball figure or statue concept. The figures have movable parts with team names and logos. No attempt was made to make the toy resemble a specific player except for skin tone. Each figurine is accompanied by a 2-1/2” x3-1/2” card on the back of the package featuring a black segmented line on the boarder, serving as a cutting guide. Sixty different players comprise the set.

Staub

Interestingly, Rusty Staub’s card has him still with Houston without an obscured cap logo. The early series of the Topps ’69 base set had the emblems airbrushed out, due to a licensing issue.

Gibson Trans Gibson 68 Base

As with so many of the oddball sets, production origins are murky. However, it is almost a certainty that Topps produced the cards for Transogram. This is obvious since so many of the images and the font are identical to Topps’ ’68 base set. In a March 2015 article on the “Sport Collector’s Daily” website, Adam Hughes wrote that Dave Hornish–referred to as a Topps expert–believed Topps was the producer, since they didn’t typically include the font rights when licensing their images to other companies. The fact that Topps included the design in the Heritage set may confirm this supposition.

3 card panel

Of course, when it comes to toy-related baseball cards, nothing is ever simple. Transogram returned with statues in 1970 but issued three players to a box. The three cards form a panel, much like the Hostess cards. Additionally, the cards have slightly larger dimensions (2-9/16” x 3-1/2”) if cut out individually.

Powell

The boxes are labeled AL or NL All-Stars, with five different sets for each league. Most of the 30-card set is identical to images produced in ’69, apart from Joe Torre. Boog Powell, Sam McDowell and Reggie Jackson are unique to ‘70.

Ryan

Mets Box

But wait, there’s more! Transogram also produced a 15-figure set comprised of five different boxes titled: “The Amazin’ Mets: 1969 World Champion Collector Figures.” It will come as no surprise that the Nolen Ryan card or panel is the most valuable.

To further “muddy the waters”, each box had a small, head shot photo on the top flap. Kids often cut the image off the box to form a miniature card. These sometimes turn up on auction sites misidentified as Transogram cards.

Does anyone own Transogram cards or have figures?

 

Sources:

Hughes, Adam. “Guide to 1969-70 Transogram Baseball Figures, Cards.” Sports Collectors Daily, Sports Collectors Daily, 25 Apr. 2015, www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/transogram-baseball-figures-and-cards-an-amazin-mystery/.

keymancollectibles.com/baseballcards/miscellaneoussets/1969transogram.htm.

Trading Card Database

 

It Curves, Part 2

In ’78 and ’79, Wiffle issued disc shaped cards in or on their ball boxes.   Since we are discussing Wiffle balls, it’s only appropriate that the actual years of distribution are as “baffling” as a perfectly executed Wiffle curve.  The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards dates the two sets from ’77 and ’78; however, the Wiffle Corporation states that ’78 and ’79 are the correct years. This is confirmed by promotional documents.  Some dealers have changed the year designations, while other still go with the original years. I will defer to the Wiffle Corporation.

The ’78 disc cards are the standard design issued by MSA (Michael Schechter Associates) except for being smaller in diameter. Most of you are familiar with the black and white, headshots with airbrushed cap emblems, since the photos were only licensed by the Major League Baseball Players Association, and not MLB. The right and left front has color panels with biographical information. The discs were produced as promotions and were customized with advertisements on the back.

The 80-card set was issued as single cards inserted inside the Wiffle ball box. There are six different color panels and each player only comes in one color. 21 future Hall-of-Fame inductees grace the set along with other stars of the era. Mark Fidrych may be the most unique player depicted and Ray Burris the most obscure. For some reason, Ed Kranepool shows up even though he is winding down his career in ’78.

 

Various Players

In ’79, Wiffle includes five cards printed on the box; two cards facing in and three facing out. Collectors have only identified 12 different boxes, which adds up to 60 cards. However, the display box in stores implored kids to collect all 88 cards. It is generally believed that only 60 were produced.

Munson cut

Each card has a thick, black dotted line around the circumference designed as guide for cutting out the cards. 52 of the players in the ’79 set are repeated from the previous year, all with the same pictures. Eight new players are introduced as well. Once again, each player’s panels are the same color, but the colors differ from ’78. As with most cards designed to be cut, uncut boxes are more valuable. This Thurman Munson is indicative of what can happen when kids use scissors.

Cey-Ryan Header

Finally, Wiffle “floated” a “knuckle curve” by issuing cards on “headers.” These are cardboard sleeves used to hold a bat and ball together for display. 28 different cards with blank backs appear on the sleeves. All cards are folded, due to the packaging technique. 14 were printed in one color panels and 14 with two colors.

 

60s Header

I neglected to include in part one a similar sleeve in the ‘60s featuring multiple player photos in a star format. Not sure if there are versions with different players.

Garland

I hope you are inspired to round up some neighborhood kids for a spirited Wiffle ball game in the backyard. If not, at least head over to eBay and pick up this awesome Wayne Garland with signature “porn stash.”

 

Sources:

“Wiffle Ball discs.” Collectors Universe, forums.collectors.com/discussion/954495/wiffle-ball-discs.

“Sales material helps to properly date when Wiffle Ball Discs were released.” Sports Collectors Digest, 13 Dec. 2016, http://www.sportscollectorsdigest.com/wiffle-ball-discs/.

The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards

 

 

 

 

 

It Curves

It is a safe bet that a majority of this blog’s readers and contributors have spent many hours playing Wiffle ball. Whether you preferred playing with a “naked” ball to get the curving effect or layering on the electrical tape to launch “tape measure” shots, for many of us Wiffle ball was a big part of summer fun.

In part one of a two-part post, I will once again desecrate the definition of baseball cards by examining Wiffle ball boxes with player photos. (In my defense, the boxes are made of card stock and removal of the top flap with the photos would approximate a card.) Part two will look at the Wiffle ball disc cards distributed in the late ‘70s.

Original Box

David Mullany invented the Wiffle ball in 1953 with the intent of preventing broken windows when his son played ball in the back yard with his friends. The final version of the ball curved dramatically, resulting in many “swings and misses” or “whiffs”–hence the name. By the late ‘50s, Mr. Mullany’s ball was sold all over the country. Around this time, many of the boxes containing the balls began to feature photos of Major League players.

 

I was unable to pin down the exact year that the player endorsements began, but Whitey Ford appears to be the first player. His initial box has a different photo from the one distributed in the ‘60s. This is the only instance of a player who has two different images. By the way, Whitey did a TV commercial for Wiffle Ball in the ‘60s.

                        Junior Rose   Rose Regulation

Rose King

Wiffle balls came in three sizes: Regulation, King (softball) and Junior. The Regulation box had one or two players on an orange background with a large white circle in the middle. King Wiffle balls have one, two or three different players with a white background and an orange circle. The Junior boxes only have one player’s photo inside a white circle surrounded by black. Several of the players appear on all versions as depicted by Pete Rose boxes.

Ford, Matthews, Williams.jpeg    Law and Maris   Whitey Tresh

Some examples of multi-player boxes include Ted Williams, Whitey Ford and Eddie Matthews gracing the top flap of this King box, while Jackie Jensen replaces Ted on another. ‘61 had boxes featuring World Series champion, Vern Law, coupled with AL MVP Roger Maris. In 63, Whitey is teamed with ’62 AL Rookie-of-the-Year, Tom Tresh.

Piniella-Munson

I still have a Munson Junior box and a Piniella King I bought in the ‘70s.   I have five total in my collection, having lost several Pete Rose boxes from childhood.

As far as I can determine, the following is a chronological list of players who appear on the boxes: Whitey Ford; Ted Williams; Jackie Jensen, Eddie Mathews, Roger Maris, Vern Law, Tom Tresh, Pete Rose, Ron Swoboda, Tim McCarver, Jerry Koosman, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella, Mike Scott and Scott McGregor.

After I “snap off” a few “Uncle Charlies” in the backyard, I will present some actual cards in part-two.

 

Talkin’ Baseball…Cards (Part 2)

Frankly, all the audio cards profiled in Part 1 did not whet my collector’s appetite. However, there are several “gems” in this post worthy of adding to the collection.

Many of you remember “Sports Challenge”; a syndicated sports trivia game show hosted by Dick Enberg, which ran from 1970-1978. A set of audio cards was produced in ‘77 called “Sports Challenge Highlights.”

The cardboard, 6” diameter discs were part of a 12-card set that featured great baseball moments. The cards have a stylized player illustration on the front with a 33-1/3 RPM recording overlaying it. Scarrab Productions produced the cards, but the record was made by American Audiographics. I couldn’t find sales or distribution information.

 

Mattel Box

In ’70-’71, Mattel produced a product for the toy market called “Instant Replay.” Although listed in the Complete Guide to Vintage Baseball Cards and “Trading Card Database,” it is a stretch to categorize the plastic discs as cards. The baseball version features: Mays, Aaron, Seaver, Oliva, Banks, McCovey and Frank Robinson.

Mays instant replay

The initial ’70 issue consists of a black, miniature disc with groves on one side and a sticker with the player’s stylized illustration attached to the opposite side. Later, a version having pictures imbedded in the plastic on both sides with the record groves overlaid was produced. Several other sports were offered, including a “Sports Challenge” trivia version in ’73.

The discs are designed to be inserted in a hand-held, battery-operated player, which resembles a walky-talky. The player and several discs were sold together as a boxed set. As with the previously mentioned disc players, the sound quality was poor and it tended to malfunction soon after purchase. It is very rare to find one that still functions. Additional cards could be purchased in four disc, “blister” packs.

Aura Robinson

The real “star” of this genre is “Auravision.” A subsidiary of Columbia Records, “Auravision” produced 6-1/2 x 6-1/2” cards with gorgeous color photos on the front and black-and-white photos with stats on the back. Apparently, the photos are unique to this product and are vivid and well-posed. The 33-1/3 rpm, clear record overlays the color photo. As with most record cards, there was a punch is the middle to be removed for play.

The first series of seven cards was issued in ’62, followed by a 16-card issue in ’64. The photos on the two Mantle cards are different, with the ’62 being very rare.  Equally rare is the ’64 Willie Mays, which is considered a short-print.

Aura Colavito

Famous New York sportscaster, Marty Glickman, conducts a five-minute interview with players on 14 of the 16 recordings. Chuck Thompson is the interviewer for Warren Spahn and Ernie Harwell does Rocky Colavito.

The cards were used by several companies as premiums. Collectors could acquire the cards through offers by Milk Duds, Yoo-Hoo, and Meadow Gold dairy products. In addition, the “Good Humor” man would hand them out when kids bought ice cream.

Another set with some “pizzazz” is the 1956 Spalding “promo” cards offered as a premium at sporting goods stores. The two, 5-1/2’ x 5-1/2’ cards feature Yogi Berra teaching the listener, “How to Hit” and Alvin Dark offering instruction on, “How to Field.” The transparent record is laid over the picture on the front. The back has a photo of Yogi or Al and their gloves. The 78 RPM recordings were produced by Rainbo Records, who also made back-of-the-box children’s records for Wheaties.

Dark on Turntable

Being a glove collector who possesses a mid-‘50s Al Dark Spalding glove, I couldn’t resist buying one of the cards several years ago. The accompanying photo shows the Al Dark card on my state-of-the-art, ’47 Zenith radio/phonograph. I was hoping to add a video of Dark’s card playing, but the phonograph wouldn’t work. There must be a burned out tube.

I will close with cool set of baseball card records courtesy of a promotion by H-O Oatmeal. Produced by Sight ‘N’ Sound records in 1953, the four, 78-RPM cards were 4-3/4” in diameter and offered instructional tips from Roy Campanella, Allie Reynolds, Whitey Lockman and Duke Snider. The front side has the record and a black-and-white posed shot over a Yankee Stadium crowd. The back had a color portrait. One card was randomly packed inside the oatmeal box. For 25 cents and two box tops, a collector could obtain the other three cards.

The cardboard record was used by many different products for promotions or premiums. They were frequently included in magazines in the ‘70s and ‘80s to augment stories or to hype artists. My guess is that there are more “talking” baseball cards to be discovered. I will keep the turntable spinning and the needle poised to drop in case I happen upon additional “talkies.”

Sources

Complete Guide to Vintage Baseball Cards

Trading Card Data Base

KeyMan Collectibles: Product descriptions

1970s Flashback With Mattel Instant Replay. (2015, March 19). Retrieved December 13, 2017, from http://www.sportscollectorsdigest.com/the-offbeat-beat-mattels-instant-replay/

D’Angelo, B. (2016, May 30). Auravision Records Were A Hit With Baseball Fans. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/auravision-records-showcased-baseballs-biggest-stars/

Auravision Records Gave Voice to Legends, But There’s More. (2009, April 06). Retrieved December 13, 2017, from http://www.sportscollectorsdigest.com/auravision_records_1960s/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talkin’ Baseball…Cards (Part 1)

BT Brett

Recently, I unearthed an unopened, four card rack pack with cards from the 1989 Topps “Baseball Talk” set. The unique aspect of this set is the transparent plastic “record” laid over the printing on the back of each card. Knowing that the “talking card” concept long predated this set, I decided to find out more about these “talkies.”

BT box

I’ll start with the before-mentioned 1989 “Baseball Talk” cards. The 3-¼ x 5-¼ cards are designed to be inserted into a special “Sports Talk” player, which was sold separately for $24.99. The record player came with a check list and cards for Henry Aaron, Don Mattingly and Orel Hershiser.

The 164-card set features a similar design to the Topps ’89 regular issue set, including a miniature version of the card back. However, the photos are different. In addition to contemporary players, the set contains stars from different eras utilizing vintage card images. The rack packs retailed for $4.00

It will come as no surprise that this whole concept was a bust. The record frequently jammed and the sound quality was terrible. Topps scrapped its plan to issue football and basketball versions. I’ve included a link to a TV commercial for the product.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDXTjOLOfU8

PD Aux

In 1999, Upper Deck produced “Power Deck” cards. The “cards” are 32-megabyte CDs-die cut to the standard card size- with a picture of the player on the front. They contain both audio and video content.

The 25 “card” set had a parallel paper version called Auxiliary. Hobbyists bought packs containing two Auxiliary cards and one CD for $4.99. The set featured the “steroid era” sluggers, Ken Griffey Jr and pitchers Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. Additionally, random cards were inserted from three subsets: MVP, Time Capsule and Season to Remember.

Mantle 2 Talking CMC

Perhaps inspired by “Baseball Talk,” Collectors Marketing Corporation (CMC) produced a Mickey Mantle “talking” card in 1999. It was included in the “Mickey Mantle Baseball Card Kit” along with a 20-card perforated sheet, album and booklet. The card has a 33-1/3 RPM transparent plastic record- superimposed over the photo on the front and is designed to play on a phonograph. The card set box implores the buyer to: “Hear Mickey’s actual voice!” Similar sets were produced for Babe Ruth, Joes Canseco and Don Mattingly.

TBC Larsen

The Mantle card is a reprise of a format used by CMC in 1979 called “Talking Baseball Cards.” Each of the 12, 5-½” X 5-5/8” cards depicts a famous baseball moment, ranging from Mazaroski’s walk-off homer to Bucky Dent’s crucial “dinger” off Mike Torrez in the ’78 tie-breaker playoff (sorry, Mark (ed: sigh)). Sold individually in rack packs, the cards have the clear 33-1/3 RPM record over a photo on the front and a narrative of the event on the back. Each card has a small perforation in the middle that could be “punched out” to fit on the center “nipple” of a turntable. I own a Don Larsen card but have never taken it out of the plastic sleeve to “give it a spin.

1979 also saw the Microsonic Company produced a series of “Living Sound” cards for United Press International (UPI). The cards were like “Baseball Talk” in that the 2” plastic record on the back of the 5” x 2-¾” card was inserted in a special player that was sold separately. UPI sold the cards in packs of 10 for $6.95. I’ve not been able to discover whether the cards or the player were sold at retail outlets or by mail order.

The “Living Sound” series was mostly comprised of non-sports topics, but the Great Moments in Sports and Sports Nostalgia sets containing nine baseball versions. The cards feature black-and-white photos on the front and a synopsis of the historical event on the back. Players in the set include: Aaron, Mantle, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Williams, Musial, Bobby Thompson and Gene Tenace.

Monkees

Interestingly, Microsonic “cut its teeth” in the record overlay business by putting recordings on the back of cereal boxes. Wheaties put out kids’ music on box backs ’58 and Post had several promotions in the ‘60s and ‘70s featuring groups like the Monkees and the Archies.

LeGarde

By the way, Microsonic also produced a regional set of record cards for the Seattle Supersonics in the late ‘70s. I played the Tom LaGarde card on the turntable and it skipped halfway through.

In part two (or the “B-side”), I will continue the audio card saga by “spinning” such awesome “platters” as the Mattel Discs, “Auravision” and Spalding premiums. Catch you on the “flip side.”

 

Sources

Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards

Trading Card Data Base

“Flashback Product of the Week: 1989 Topps Baseball Talk Collection.” Sports Card Info, 18 Apr. 2014, sportscardinfo.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/flashback-product-of-the-week-1989-topps-baseball-talk-collection/.

Bidami.com: 1979 UPI Living Sound (Auction Site)

Collectable Classics.com: 1979 Collectors Marketing Corp. Talking Baseball Card (Auction site)

Top 10 Cereal Box Records | MrBreakfast.Com, www.mrbreakfast.com/list.asp?id=5.

 

Cards with Balls

 

Brock

As an inveterate collector, I have saved almost every sports related piece of memorabilia though all of life’s transitions.  The one big exception is the loss of my Chemtoy “superballs” with imbedded baseball player photos.  My brother and I easily had 60-70 of these 1” diameter “high bounce” balls.  With the exception of Lou Brock and Don Mincher, the collection is lost.

Team
Major League box
AL and NL Boxes
League boxes

Many of you may remember that the balls were sold in vending machines as well as at drug, candy and variety stores.   My only source was a drug store in the “big city” of Yakima, WA, which had the mixed box of AL and NL players. Chemtoy also distributed the balls in separate NL and AL boxes or regionally by teams.  The balls sold for 10 cents each.  1970 was the only year of production, but the balls lingered in stores for several years

Each team had 11 or 12 players and a manager.  The inch diameter picture disk was a head shot without any MLB insignia on the caps.  Obviously, Chemtoy only bought rights from the MLBPA.  The backs were blue for the NL and red for the AL and contained the player’s name, team, position and an inventory number.

The pliable, clear plastic material served to magnify the picture when viewed straight on.  Unfortunately, the balls tended the turn “cloudy” with age, obscuring the picture. I remember that excessive bouncing could lead to the ball splitting at the center seem leaving you with a 1” baseball card.

Over the years, I’ve collected eight Seattle Pilots, paying up to $25 (ouch!) each.  I was recently narrowly outbid on a banged up Gene Brabender.

Chemtoy produced an AFL and NFL set in 1969 as well.

Here is a link with more information on these quasi-cards.