A Ted Williams mini-mystery…solved?

The hobby is full of secrets, mysteries, and a lore often built on hearsay, self-interest, imperfect memory, and conjecture. Of course sometimes there is actual evidence.

Today’s baseball card mystery is the mythical “Ted Signs for 1959” card #68 that has prompted many a collector to declare 79/80 good enough on the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set.

About the card

Before plunging into the unknown, here is what’s known.

  • The card is significantly rarer than the other 79 cards in the set.
  • The card was pulled from production due to the exclusive contract Topps held with Bucky Harris. (Random aside: The first ever Topps card of Bucky Harris was in 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1991!)
  • The card was sent to collectors who contacted Fleer about its absence from the set.
  • And of course the card was and still is frequently counterfeited.

What remains a mystery, or at least lacking consensus, some 60 years later is just how early the card was pulled from production. Specifically, did card 68 ever make it into packs?

Ask the experts

Here is a fairly extensive literature review on the subject. While all sources agree the card was pulled early, none offer any specificity as to just how early “early” really was.

  • According to the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards (5th Ed.), “card #68 was withdrawn from the set early in production and is scarce.”
  • The PSA Card Facts for the set note only that “The set’s most scarce and therefore prized piece is Card #68 (“Ted Signs for 1959”), which Fleer withdrew from the collection early in production.”
  • A more detailed PSA write-up on the card itself notes only that the “card was pulled from production early due to an alleged contract dispute with Buck [sic] Harris (the other man depicted on the card), resulting in a higher degree of scarcity.”
  • An article on Cardboard Connection is equally mum: “As a result, the card had to be pulled from production, pushing values up.”
  • A listing at Dean’s cards indicates that “Fleer was forced to remove the #68 card from distribution, due to the legal issues of using Harris’ image without his permission.”
  • An article on the set from Sports Collectors Digest refers to card 68 as “a single card that ended up being pulled off the presses…”. 
  • From Sports Collectors Daily (2012): “During the production process, the card was yanked from the set, creating a rarity that has driven set builders crazy for years.”
  • From Sports Collectors Daily (2016): “Fewer copies exist of that one compared to the other cards in the set because printing of it ceased early when the set was being created. It seems Red Sox GM Bucky Harris was under contract to Topps and thus, couldn’t appear in a Fleer set.  Fleer stopped the presses and pulled #68 but not before some of them had already been printed.”
  • From Tuff Stuff: “Fleer was forced to pull the card early from production.”
  • From Robert Edward Auctions: “This card was withdrawn from production due to legal issues relating to Fleer’s unauthorized use of Harris’ image.”
  • From Heritage Auctions: “[The card] is known for being difficult due to being pulled from circulation since Bucky Harris (who appears on this card) was under contract with Topps.”
  • From Leland’s: “The key to the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams Set. The Ted Signs for 1959 card #68 was pulled from production early making it a bit scarcer than the rest of the set. “
  • From KeyMan Collectibles: “Topps had Bucky Harris under exclusive contract and Fleer had to stop production of card 68 ‘Ted Signs for 1959’ making it a rare short print. Only a few made it out to the public.”

Equivocating on the issue one final time is this Heritage listing for an unopened box, which suggests the card shouldn’t be in the packs but might be.

“We can only speculate if card #68 ‘Jan 23, 1959 – Ted Signs for 1959’ can be found within. History says it should not as the card was not supposed to be sold.”

Heritage Auctions listing #80171

If it were well known or provable that card 68 did in fact make it into at least some packs, I have to imagine the Heritage catalog would have played up that fact in its listing. As it is, my read of the listing is much more a “probably not” than a “maybe.”

Primary sources

Of course, if I learned anything at all from my History teacher, primary sources are always best. As such, let’s see what the Frank H. Fleer Corporation had to say about the card back in August 1959.

A full transcript of the letter is here, but the key lines are these:

Due to the possibility of legal overtones, card #68 of the Ted Williams series was not put on the market for sale.  However, it was made and we have been able to send several to people such as you who have inquired.

So there you have it, right? Straight from Art Wolfe at Fleer, we see that card 68 was not put on the market for sale, i.e., did not make it into packs.

The ultimate primary source

However, where baseball cards are concerned, there are sources even more reliable than the Assistant Promotion Managers of the companies that make them. The best authority on card 68 and the only source truly worthy of the label “primary” is of course card 68 itself!

As luck would have it, I finally picked one of after all these years. I think you’ll agree it’s not a bad looking “2.”

I have to imagine the grade was based more on the card’s reverse, which has a prominent wax stain and a crease that shows up the right lighting makes evident.

Wait a minute! Did somebody say wax stain?!?! Let’s crack that card out of its plastic prison and get a better look.

Sure enough, it’s a wax stain. MYSTERY SOLVED! And lest you think this one card managed to sneak through quality control, here’s another…

And another…

This is also a good spot to thank reader “athomeatfenway” for the tip to check out page 212 of the Ted Williams bio “In Pursuit of Perfection” by Bill Nowlin and Jim Prime. Here, dealer Irv Lerner recounts an incredible story of the 1959 Fleer set along with his recollection of card 68 specifically.

“The initial run did have the number 68s in it. Two or three months afterward, they damaged that part of the plate so they could pull it out.”

Estimating rarity

Incidentally, the wax stains do more than confirm that card 68 made it into wax packs, albeit very early ones. The stains may also provide a rough means of estimating how many of these cards were issued in packs versus through direct correspondence with Fleer.

Imagine that one had access to front/back scans of a large sample of the card, for example, all 1200 or so PSA/SGC graded examples of card 68. Now assume 30 of the cards exhibited wax stains. Since the cards were issued in packs of 6 or 8 cards apiece, we might infer from the 30 stained cards that between 30 x 6 = 180 and 30 x 8 = 240 of the 1200 cards (about 15-20%) came from packs.

Bonus info

In doing my research for this piece, I ran across some information outside the main storyline that nonetheless felt worth sharing.

First up, here is a 1958 photograph of Art Wolfe, the Fleer employee who signed letters to collectors in 1959. Source: October 12, 1958, Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY).

By March 1959, Mr. Wolfe had joined Fleer and was in Clearwater, Florida, doing his best to sign ballplayers. Source: March 21, 1959, News Journal (Wilmington, DE).

The following week the Fort Lauderdale News (March 25, 1959) covered the signing of Ted Williams by Fleer as an early sign of the cardboard apocalypse.

And a week after that, the April 2 (subscription required) Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) covered Mr. Wolfe from Fleer in the middle of his “Just say no to Topps” campaign.

You might be surprised to see all this coverage of the baseball cards wars long before the financial side of the hobby exploded. Still, this stuff really did matter to kids back then! Here is the May 22, 1961, edition of the Miami News.

Fleer took a break from the baseball card business between 1963 and 1968, so it’s not surprising that Art Wolfe would return to his sportscasting roots, eventually becoming sports director for WPEN, known today as “97.5 The Fanatic.” Here is an ad from the July 13, 1965, Philadelphia Daily News.

Following his tenure with WPEN, Wolfe went on to become a sports reporter and anchor for Philadelphia’s KYW. This letter from a young reader in June 1986 stands as proof not only that Philly sports fans are the worst but that they start young! 😄

Clare R. “Art” Wolfe passed away in 2008, having spent most of his life a radio and TV man doing sports. However unappreciated his work may have been by an eighth grade Gregory Popowski, many of us—but not quite all of us—with complete 1959 Fleer Ted Williams sets owe Mr. Wolfe a debt of gratitude for putting those cards in the mail.

Committee note: Tomorrow the SABR Baseball Cards blog will be celebrating 400 posts with a specially themed article revolving around the number 400. Any guesses? Fitting though it might have been, you can probably already rule out Ted Williams!

Anna and the 1961 Yaz Card

1961 Yaz

I didn’t make Anna out for a baseball fan.  Not in a million years.  But, the more we talked about life and our lives, the more interesting she became.  Then she said she loved baseball.  Uh, what, as I did a double-take.

Turns out, she grew up near up not too far from Shea Stadium, and of course was a Mets fan.  She had been to tons of games early in her life and fondly recalled getting home from school one afternoon in October and her mother running out to tell her that the Mets had just beat the Baltimore Orioles to claim the 1969 World Series title.  It was the best moment of her baseball life, she said with a gleam in her eye.

She was never so beautiful as she was at that moment, telling me this story.  From then on, all we talked was baseball.  She was several years older than me, and married.  As a young and single guy, I was amused.  Still, we could talk about the Mets, and her favorite players, and growing up in the Queens neighborhood of Jamaica.

Despite all the interesting players filling the Mets rosters over the years, that included Seaver Koosman, Kranepool and Grote, Anna threw me a curveball when she said with emphasis that her all-time favorite player was Carl Yastrzemski.  Yeah, Yaz.  The Hall of Fame MVP, Triple Crown winner, 18-time All-Star, 7-time Gold Glove left fielder for the Boston Red Sox!  When I asked why him, she said that he was Polish (her ethnic background), and with a gush, she continued, “he was so handsome!”  Alright then, Yaz was her guy.  Cool!

I pondered our conversation that evening, and the day after, thinking about Yaz and the 1969 Mets, and the 1973 Mets, and the 1986 Mets.  I wanted to give Anna something special, something unique, something that I know she didn’t have.  Maybe a baseball card from my collection.  But, nothing would be as special as a 1961 Yaz card, the one with the rookie star, which I did not have.  As it so happened, there was a trading card shop several blocks from my house.  Armed with a binder of good stuff and the best of intentions, I ventured out into the night after work to do a little horse trading.

This was summer 1995, and the card guy wanted something like 30 bucks for that 1961 Topps #287 card.  It might have been $25.  Regardless, I didn’t have cash, and was prepared to haggle.  He looked through the pages of my binders with some mild interest, knowing that he had me over a barrel after I foolishly indicated the card was for a girl.  He would leaf through a couple of pages and stop, and continue turning pages, stopping again, and turning some more.  I had been in his shop on a number of occasions to peer with envy at the cards on the glass shelves, or sift through the commons in the boxes in neatly arranged stacks.  The glass shelf cards were always out of my price range, but it was harmless to covet.

Yaz_No Deal

I had an idea of what he might find interesting, and tried to steer him towards a few of my cards from the early to mid-1970s, hoping to entice him with my 1971 Steve Garvey rookie card (#341) or my 1973 Rod Carew (#330).  Heck, I thought my 1974 Reggie Jackson (#130) looked pretty good, too.  Unfortunately, he had those, and wasn’t interested.  He flipped through the pages one more time before settling on my 1974 Tom Seaver (#80), 1975 Dave Winfield (#61) AND my 1976 Johnny Bench (#300).  Really?  All three?  He went to his cabinet and pulled out that ’61 Yaz, and seemed to wave it in my face.  Taunting me.  Or least that’s what it felt like.  I looked at Tom and Dave and Johnny, wondering if they knew what I was about to do.

Yaz_Traded

The 1974 Tom Seaver card was one of several Topps cards that year featuring the player in a landscape position.  The photo featured a great action shot of Tom Terrific pitching off the mound at Shea.  The ’75 Winfield card featured the third-year player at home in San Diego taking a few cuts, perhaps before the start of the game.  I always liked the Bench card from the 1976 collection.  He’s featured as a “NL ALL STAR” lettered within a star shape that also indicated his position.  The photo shows him standing in what appears to be moments after a close play at the plate because there’s still a cloud of dust enveloping him, as he stands with there in his catcher’s gear sans the mask.  I always liked those catchers’ cards.  Topps always seemed to do a good job at capturing the catcher working his tail off behind the plate.  Bench, in this card, seems to be ready to fight, ready to defend his plate.

I looked down again at those three cards and closed my eyes and made the deal.  The guy took my cards away and presented me with the ’61 Yaz tucked inside a hard plastic sleeve.  It wasn’t the best of deals, but it was the best that I could do.  I had hoped that someday I might get them back.  Right now, they were gone, and that was that.  But, now I had something special for someone special.  That thought lightened the short walk back to my apartment.

At lunch the next day, I surprised Anna with the card.  She was overjoyed.  She laughed and smiled, and held the card to her heart.  Suddenly, the trade didn’t seem so bad.  It was a great trade, in fact.  We talked about Yaz and the 1967 World Series, and the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox, and the fortunes of the Seattle Mariners, who were catching fire that summer.  I was pleased that Anna liked the card so much.

The next day, she presented me with a curious thing: a Cleveland Indians button with an attached talisman from the 1940s.  It was her grandfather’s, she said.  She wanted me to have it.  I never knew if she had any other baseball things, but I got the impression this object meant a great deal to her.  I took it from her with great care and appreciation, and promised to take good care of it.  For nearly 25 years, I’ve kept that Cleveland Indians button with attached talisman in a box in a little plastic bag.  Every so often I come across that thing and think of Anna and the 1961 Carl Yastrzemski card.

SABR48 Gets a Baseball Card

For the second consecutive year the official SABR convention baseball game (June 22, at PNC Park) was awarded a Topps Now card. A year ago Topps honored Jacob deGrom for the 2017 SABR47 game, and you can read our posting on that game here.

For SABR folks fortunate enough to go to Pittsburgh this past summer you may remember that the game was a pitcher’s duel between the Diamondbacks and Pirates. This did not go unnoticed by Topps

2018 ToppsNow #355 Nova Corbin SABR A

2018 ToppsNow #355

The card features both starting pitchers in a game that went into the 11th inning scoreless. The combined line for the two pitchers was 15 innings pitched, 6 hits, no walks, and 20 strikeouts. While the card does honor an MLB record – the record is in the opinion of Team Phungo a bit dubious. Mostly because of the volume of caveats involved.

7+Scoreless IP AND

8+ Ks AND

NO BBs AND

Less than 3 Hits

… For each starting pitcher

Talk to a probability nerd and that is something like EIGHT conditions that need to be met – no wonder it is the first time it ever happened. With this in mind, rather than research previous comparable games I will simply summarize each of the starts featured in the dual photo on the card.

Ivan Nova’s 8 innings, 3 Hits and 0 runs were all season superlatives for the veteran starter. His game score of 84 was also a personal best for 2018. It was one of two starts where Nova went 8 scoreless and did not get the win. The Pirates had a similar game on April 26 against Detroit which they won 1-0 on a walk-off home run by Corey Dickerson.

The Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin had a breakout season in 2018 which resulted in the southpaw placing 5th in the Cy Young voting. During his June 22nd outing he matched a career high with 12 strikeouts. By games score (83) the start ranked in the top 3 for Corbin in 2018.

The Topps Now card features photos of both pitchers, a description of the record in the text at the bottom, and the date of the game.

2018 ToppsNow #355 Nova Corbin SABR B

2018 ToppsNow #355 (b-side)

The back of the card goes into a little more depth on the game including the 2-1 final score and also mentions Ketel Marte, who recorded the game winning hit for the Diamondbacks.

Circulation

ToppsNow cards are only available for a limited time and have limited print runs. There were 169 copies of this particular card that were released. Topps created five cards for games played on June 22, 2018 and this card finished in the middle of that group:

353 Nelson Cruz – Seattle Mariners : 2 HRs, 7 RBI in 4-Hit Offensive Outburst (print run=161)
354 Franklin Barreto – Oakland Athletics : Pair of 3-Run HRs Power Win in 6-RBI Performance (print run=137)
355 Ivan Nova, Patrick Corbin : Starters Set MLB Record with 7+ Scoreless IP, 8+ Ks, 0 BBs, and Less than 3 Hits Each (print run=169)
356 Jesus Aguilar – Milwaukee Brewers : 1st HR Ends No-No, 2nd Powers Walk-Off Win (print run=199)
357 Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles : Go-Ahead, 2-Run HR in the 15th Inning Fuels Victory (print run=173)

The biggest shocker here is that 2019 Free Agent darling Manny Machado warranted only 4 more copies than Nova/Corbin.

Snapshots

Both images used on the card were taken by Pittsburgh based freelance photographer Justin Berl. Both pictures reside with Getty Images: Ivan Nova Patrick Corbin. It is kind of impressive that Berl got both shots as they are taken from different sides of the diamond.

Sources and Links

SABR Baseball Cards Committee (2017 Game)

Phungo Game Dated Cards Index

getty images

Justin Berl

Baseball-Ref

Cardboard Connection

Baseball Americana

CdV

Over Thanksgiving I took a trip to go see the Baseball Americana exhibition at the Library of Congress. It’s a single gallery, doable in an hour, and I highly recommend visiting if you’re in DC before it closes. While I’ve already written about the general show on my own blog, for the purposes of this committee I feel like it’s worth highlighting the specific role baseball cards play in the exhibition.

Being part of the Library of Congress means that ephemera like cards are emphasized a lot more than equipment and artifacts. One of the key points this show makes is not only has baseball existed for 150 years years, it’s been recognizable that entire time; the existence of baseball cards—the earliest being a carte de visite from 1865 — is a key feature of this consistency. As long as we’ve had a game, we’ve been making pieces of cardboard featuring players’ pictures and trading and collecting the results.

Does a modern card (well, 1994 Bowman) with 4-color offset lithography, gloss UV, and foilstamping compare at all to a 130-year-old Goodwin & Co single-color uncoated photographic print? Not at all from a production point of view but seeing them next to each other in the same case and even my 6-year-old recognizes them as part and parcel of the same concept. Heck, even some of the poses are exactly the same.

The show continues with a display of a number of cards of stars of the pre-integration period. These are wonderful to see (and lust over) but the emphasis of this part of the exhibition is in who’s playing baseball and the cards are contrasted with photos of African-American ballplayers.

The clear takeaway to me is that while cards have always existed, their role in defining who real ballplayers are cannot be ignored. Seeing who we’ve chosen to make cards of is a powerful statement about who counts and who doesn’t in the sport.* I half-jokingly refer to Topps Flagship as the “card of record” but there’s a kernel of truth in there. Cards chronicle the history of the game and collecting them connects us to that history.

*Note, my takeaway isn’t just a race thing. When we see collectors express concerns about companies only focusing on rookies or stars or large-market teams it’s because of the way that cards function as a record of who matters.

Cards were my entrée into baseball history. They served a similar function for my kids. As much as my eldest hits Wikipedia, Baseball-Reference, and Retrosheet on the iPad, cards are why he knows who he knows and what sustain his interest and connection to the sport.

BBM

Later on, a sample of Japanese cards shows how the sport has transcended the United States and become more global. This is exactly right and, while I haven’t gotten into international cards,* I can’t deny that it’s really interesting to see how an American thing goes global and how baseball cards end up fitting into other country’s card-collecting traditions.

*My forays into Spanish-language issues are more of a language-based interest.

Cabrera

The only miss card-wise for me is that in the section that shows the increase of statistics in both scouting and the appreciation of the game. There’s a comparison of card backs and the nature of the statistical information that we’ve felt is appropriate over the years. Unfortunately we don’t actually get to see the backs and they’re merely described to us.

Plus there’s so much more that could be here. I would’ve loved to see a comparison of backs drawing a line from T205’s slashline of G/AVG/Fielding to the traditional slash lines of the 1960s, the whole range of proto-SABRmetric backs in the 1990s, and finally today’s inclusion of stats like WAR that I can’t even explain to my kids how to calculate. It’s not just that stats exist, it’s what stats we care about and how that impacts our understanding of the game.

It doesn’t make you any less of a man; or One picture is worth at least 500 words

Once every so often I flip through the vintage Topps cards I was gifted last year (greedily wishing for more – is that bad?!?), just looking at the cards and appreciating the artwork and the style, perhaps feel a bit nostalgic.  There’s a 1957 Luis Aparacio, 1965 Zoilo Versailles, 1959 Hector Lopez, among others, and then there’s the 1963 Mike Fornieles.

 

In all my readings and various research projects, I must admit I had

Mike Fornieles_1963 correctnever heard of Mike Fornieles.  Even as I had flipped through these cards at least a few times over the past year, he was such an anonymous player to me that I had failed to notice one bizarre feature of this 1963 “treasure” until the

other day.  I was working on my annual SABR Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration posts looking for ideas, and thinking about recent discussion on the SABR Baseball Cards page about whether or not people liked the idea of Topps “recycling” their vintage designs when applying them to modern players.  I wrote that I hoped the idea encourages others to appreciate the vintage style as I do, and I’m sure as many of you do, as well.

 

So, flipping through the cards I come across the Fornieles card (#28) and realize of the first time that somFornieles incorrect 1ething is amiss.  You might recall that the 1963 Topps series was a 576-card set featuring a large player photo with a smaller photo in the lower right size, about the size of a postage stamp.  Well, my card features half the guy’s body missing in that lower right section.  Take a look at the photo.  There’s some kind of pencil marking, I think, that separates the larger photo and the player identification section.  Further, while the card has a gloss or sheen to its face, the section where Fornieles’ smaller photo would be, is more of a matte finish than glossy, like someone took an eraser and rubbed out the poor guy’s face.  It’s a mystery as to how the card wound up this way.  The card is otherwise in impeccable shape.  Nice corners, no creases, excellent condition, I’d say.

 

As for the player Mike Fornieles, the Cuban-born pitcher broke in with the Washington Senators as a 20 year-old in 1952, throwing in only 4 games going 2-2 towards the end of that season.  Over the next 11 years he spent time on the mound for the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins to close out his career in 1963.  Over his 12 year-career, he went 63-64 with a 3.96 ERA in 432 games with over 1156.2 innings pitched.

 

I don’t know if this 1963 Mike Fornieles #28 Topps card is worth anything in this condition, but it does make for an interesting story.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised to find yet another treasure in the gift that keeps on giving.  Fornieles’ story is an interesting one.  I would certainly encourage you to read his SABR biography by Thomas Ayers: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/5889829b

 

Topps absurd first World Series Card: 1960 Topps #385

Topps put together their first World Series subset in 1960. The set commemorated the 1959 series which featured the Chicago White Sox versus versus the team that also happens to be this years NL rep, the LA Dodgers.

1960 Topps #385

The World Series may be dubbed the Fall Classic, however I would never consider the first Topps card created to honor the Series a Classic.

Yes any first is significant, and the introduction of World Series cards to Topps is obviously important.

Unfortunately the execution of this first card in the subset is poor.

I have no problem with the picture of Charlie Neal (2-4, SB) on the card. Action shots are rare in the era, so Topps gets points here, although this appears to be a color painting based off of a black and white photo.

My issues is based on the image and the large caption, who do you think won Game 1 of the 1959 World Series?

Okay the score is given in the bottom left – in the smallest font on the card. Regardless, if the Dodgers get clobbered why would you feature their second baseman stealing a base as the picture to represent that game?

Ridiculousness – If Twitter had existed in 1960 World Series cards would have been banished for decades, or at least until the next managerial faux pas.

The White Sox won the contest 11-0, consequently Topps had a number of heroes to choose from for the card front. Ted Kluszewski had a pair of home runs and 5 RBI. Jim Landis had 3 hits, 3 Runs and an RBI. And what about the pitcher – future Hall of Famer Early Wynn tossed seven shutout innings, scattering six singles.

Moving on from my rant, despite this rather odd start I am glad that Topps introduced World Series cards in 1960 and look forward to a the cards that will note this years series in 2018 Topps.

B side

Topps did get the b-side of these cards right by featuring a box score with basic line score. The capsule summary at the top is concise and summarizes the key points of all the players missed on the front of the card.

The 1960 Topps World Series subset consists of seven cards one for each game plus a summary/Dodgers Celebration card which features a composite box on the back. In addition to this card Charlie Neal is also featured on the second card of the subset.

Neal had 2 home runs in that game including a 3 run shot in the 7th which gave the Dodgers their first lead of the series. White Sox Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio appears on the Game 5 card, although the picture on the card is from Game 4.

Sources and Links
Horizontal Heroes
Sports Collectors Digest – John McMurray
baseball-ref
Trading Card DB

Game Dated Card Index

1959 Fleer #28 The Williams Shift

Defensive Shifts in baseball have been implemented significantly more in recent years, but avid baseball fans know that they have been around for decades.

Perhaps the best known of these shifts is the “Williams Shift” which was designed to neutralize Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. This shift was once captured on cardboard.

1959 Fleer Ted Williams #28 The Williams Shift

There is no player image here but that does not detract from the beauty of the card. While the shift was not based on statistical data, its still considered an early glimpse into SABRmetrics. Think about it, have you ever seen a card dedicated to the defensive alignment versus a hitter (or perhaps the players spray chart) prior to say 2010?

This shift was conceived by Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau. The Indians lost the first game of a July 14 1946 Double Header to the Red Sox 11-10. Eight of those 11 runs were driven in by Ted Williams on three Homers, including a grand slam. As can be seen on the graphic on the card Boudreau — who was also the starting shortstop for the Indians — moved most of the fielders to the right side of the field.

Flip

1959 Fleer Ted Williams #28 The Williams Shift (b-side)

The back of the card goes into further discussion of the Williams Shift. The shift did not help much as the Tribe also lost the back end of the double header 6-4.

1959 Fleer Ted Williams

Notice the card has a source for “All Card Data” and the credit is given to an E. Mifflin. I did a little on-line digging and it appears that E. Mifflin is Edward Mifflin who wrote for the Sporting News in the 1950s and became friends with Williams.

I contacted SABR director and Ted Williams biographer Bill Nowlin to see if he had any insights on Edward Mifflin and Bill came back with a quick response including a bio from Mike Shatzkin’s “The Ballplayers”.

It turns out Mr Mifflin was quite an important figure in Ted Williams’ career.

In 1954 the Saturday Evening Post published an article announcing the retirement of Teddy Ballgame.

Following the article’s release, Mifflin ran into Williams at a Baltimore train station. Mifflin told the slugger that retirement at that time may jeopardize his baseball legacy.

The Mifflin Bio from “the Ballplayers” included this excerpt:

Mifflin explained. The success of Williams’s career would be measured one definitive way: Would he be elected to the Hall of Fame in the first year he became eligible? Williams had missed so much playing time in WWII and Korea that his career totals weren’t yet impressive enough. And baseball writers were the voters for the Hall of Fame. “Ted, you barely have 350 home runs. You don’t have 1,500 rbi. You don’t even have 2,000 hits.

And these writers hate your guts; they didn’t even vote you the MVP twice when you won the Triple Crown. You needs stats that are undeniable. These aren’t.”

Ted Williams perhaps boosted by Mifflin’s suggestion did not retire and returned to baseball. He played the bulk of six more seasons racking up 155 more Homers and 700+ additional hits. In 1966 he became a first ballot Hall of Famer with 521 Home Runs and 2600+ hits.

The 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set is 80 cards and a spot-check via Check Out My Cards revealed that all the cards had the E Mifflin credit.

Philadelphia folks may be interested to know that Edward Mifflin was a representative in the PA State legislature from 1963 until his death in 1971. His daughter Lawrie went on to become a New York Times sportswriter; she was cited in a recent NPR story which discussed NFL Quarterback Cam Newton’s poor judgement in comments to a female reporter.

Sources and Links

Fleer

The Ballplayers – Mike Shatzkin

SABR Bio Ted Williams – Bill Nowlin

NPR

TitleIX.info

Baseball-Ref

Cardboard Connection

Phungo List of Game Dated Cards