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.

Free Agent Draft

Most collectors have a cringe inducing story surrounding the desecration of cards or related products during their youth. A classic example is Jeff Katz gluing ’71 coins onto a board. Of course cards were designed to provide fun and entertainment for kids. At the time, the alterations we made brought us joy. However, I was enough of a collector as a kid to only mess with duplicates. The following is a tale of desecrating a ’69 Pete Rose card-amongst many others-in the pursuit of fun.

Parker Brothers produced a board game called “Pro Draft,” which utilized ’73 Topps football cards. I very much coveted this game but never obtained it. Being a clever lad, I decided to create my own game using baseball cards. I called the game “Free Agent Draft.” My best guess is I created it in ‘75 after the Messersmith/McNally case resulted in free agency.

Borrowing liberally from the rules of Monopoly, I crafted a board game where the first player to obtain a card for each positon–plus a manager–would be the winner. The players had different values, much like the properties in Monopoly. Drawing from my vast number of duplicates, I proceeded to write dollar values, ranging from 50 to 500, on the front of cards. This resulted in not only Pete Rose being defaced but Luis Aparicio, Boog Powell and Bill Mazeroski as well.

My “Monopoly like” board had spaces for drafting players, winning or losing money, being forced to trade a player or pay opponents fees. I had a “Community Chest/Chance” space called “Hit or Error” resulting in good or bad outcomes depending on which card was drawn. Examples included: “3 game winning streak: move forward 3 spaces” and “Pay $100 to pension fund.”

Competitors could raise money by placing players on “waivers,” receiving half value from the bank. An opponent could put in a waiver claim if you couldn’t meet your financial obligations. Obviously, I stole this from the mortgage option in Monopoly.

Participants could purchase multiple players for the same position in an attempt to block opponents from filling out a team. Conversely, you could take a player you needed if you landed on a “trade” space.

Initially, I drew the game board-poorly- on the back of a roll of Christmas paper and glued it to a checker board. Later, the board was significantly improved by my buddy, Ted, utilizing a piece of plywood and etching the spaces with a wood burner tool. We even varnished it.

Since we played this game for hours, it must have been somewhat compelling. I remember having to alter the rules several times since flaws would creep up. Eventually, we nailed down a fun game.

During a furnace installation in my grandparent’s basement, the board and the “Hit or Error” cards disappeared. I saved some of the adulterated baseball cards, which you are viewing.

If I had sold this concept to Parker Brother or Milton Bradley–not the player–I might have made a fortune. Alas, I’m sure copyright infringement would have been an issue.

I also created a game called “Jenk-o-Matic” baseball, but that is a topic for another post.