Getting Down with Upgrades

A few months before the glorious reinvigorating of the SABR Baseball Cards Committee, I was easing my way back into the hobby. I realized that I was about 50 cards shy of a complete 1971 Topps set. What always stopped me from finishing it was the condition; on the whole what I had was VGEX on average (or at best), well below my normal standards. When it dawned on me that consistency of condition within the set was key, I was freed from my bonds. I could get a Nolan Ryan in EX and not break the bank. This is all very good justification.

I finished that set and then, as we all do, looked for what was next. I was further away from a full 1970 Topps set, but the overall condition of those cards was better than my 1971s. A couple of big gifts from friends put me in line for a set in EX.

Still, happy as I was with competed sets, I knew there were some real dogs in each. When I went through them both recently, again looking for some kind of uniform condition, I counted up about 55-60 cards per set in need of serious upgrading.

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This Yankees Team card from 1970 is so awful – worn, creased, with the soft pliability of a wet paper towel. Even within a sheet (and we know sheets provide some cover for imperfections), it looks like shit. Only Jim Bunning has the nerve to look in its direction. Up close it’s like the Phantom of the Opera, mask off. It clearly is not welcome and things need to change.

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What to do? I whittled a little off the list with two trades (here’s a good example of a before and after from 1971)

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and, shockingly, to me, I had doubles that were in better condition than the cards I had in my set. (Remember to always check your doubles!). When the dust cleared I was down to about 30 cards needed per set.

A card show will take care of most of these, but, with some time to spare last night, I visited COMC. I’ve ordered only once from them and I didn’t love the experience beyond getting the final card of a set I’d been working on for 17 years (2000-01 Topps Heritage Basketball). I spent too much that time, $3.99 postage for one card that I should’ve gotten for a little less.

One of the nice things about our card community is the sharing of information (and cards) and I was tipped off to the trick of COMC. You can load up a cart and qualify for the same $3.99 payment. I ended up finding 35 cards at good prices, the scans showing exactly the condition I’m seeking. I’m still a bit nervous to see what they’re like in person, but I feel tentatively good about it.

Kind of. I’m down to needing 31 cards for both sets to be in a state I can accept, with a few superstars in the mix (1971 Clemente is the priciest). Is this money well spent? I don’t know. For what it’ll end up costing me to upgrade, I could buy all the 1956 commons I need in EX. The reality is one spend doesn’t preclude another spend. I’ll end up buying all the upgrades I need, sort of as an extracurricular project, not exactly counting it when I tally up my card costs. That’s seriously flawed justification, but I’m coming to terms with it.

TRENDY: South Korea Winter Olympics

The Olympics being held in PyeongChang is a good opportunity to discuss some WBC/South Korea cards.

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2009 A&G National Price #NP39 Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo is probably the most prominent Korean MLB player. The 34 year old outfielder has put together a pretty nice career including a couple of playoff appearances and 168 Home Runs. Choo will be entering his 14th season, four of which have been with the Texas Rangers, in a few weeks,

Topps noted the 2009 World Baseball Classic by giving the Allen & Ginter’s common (or decoy) insert an International flare. Each of the 75 subjects in the set is presented on a card that represents the players home country. In the above Shin-Soo Choo card you can see the a small flag atop the interior frame along with a flag background for the player image. The player name banner also references the home country.

2009 A&G National Pride #NP39 Shin-Soo Choo (b-side)

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The backside features both the player team and home country. The write-up mentions South Korea’s 10-2 WBC victory over Venezuela in which Shin-Soo Choo hit a first inning home run. The blast came against former Phillies pitcher Carlos Silva who did not make it out of the 2nd inning.


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2005 Topps #UH199 HR Derby Hee-Seop Choi

2005 was also a WBC year and as part of the events promotion MLB gave the Home Run Derby an international flair. You can see the Korean flag patch on the upper left of Hee-Sop Choi’s uniform.

The 2005 All-Star game was held in Detroit with 8 players representing seven different countries and the US territory of Puerto Rico. At the time of the event Choi had the lowest career Home Run total among the participants with 38. The South Korean First Baseman was eliminated in the first round when he hit 5 Homers, 7 were needed to advance. The final was won by the Phillies Bobby Abreu (Venezuela) over Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) by an 11-5 round score. Abreu had 41 Home Runs on the night boosted by an impressive 24 spot in the opening frame.

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2005 Topps #UH199 HR Derby Hee-Seop Choi (b-side)

The back side of the card discusses Hee-Seop Choi’s Home Run Derby first round. Much debated 2018 HOF Nominee Andruw Jones (Netherlands) is mentioned alongside Choi.

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Phungo WBC Binder South Korea Page

One of the MANY minor collections in the Phungo collection is the WBC binder which includes players paged by home country. There are several card sets that contain feature players representing their native countries. This is the Korea page which currently houses 7 cards with slots 1 & 2 open. Hee-Seop Choi earns center square for a combination of his stature and the fact that he is facing my preferred direction for a center square on a Right Hand Page.

2018 Winter Games

For more info on an interesting baseball connected Olympian check my column on Topps 2014 Olympic cards which features Skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender. The original Posting from four years ago can be found here.

Katie’s father was an MLB outfielder and we briefly discussed him in 2014 as well. That column including his RC along with a discussion of his 1969T card in the Uhleander family can be found here.

Sources and Links

Phungo Game Dated Card Index

Phungo WBC Index

Cardboard Junkie

TeamSets4U

MLB

NBC Olympics

LA Times

Baseball-Ref

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.

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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.

 

Topps 1963 All-Star Rookie Cup Team: Part 1 – the Cards

Before I start let me note that the cards that the All-Star Rookie Cup cards that show up in a Topps set represent the squad for the previous season.

In short it means that the 1963 All-Star Rookie Cup Team is honored in 1964 Topps set.

Ok enough legalese.

The most noteworthy of the 1963 All-Star Rookie Cup card belongs to Pete Rose. I am not going to cover this card here, but if you want to read a terrific heartfelt column check out the posting Wax Pack Gods which can be found here.

1964 Topps #109 Rusty Staub

Instead we will venture down the rabbit hole that is the 1964 Topps Rusty Staub card. What is not to love here, a six-time all-star on a card that boldly screams COLTS at the top of the card. Rusty’s cap with the .45s logo completes the franchise original “Colt .45s” nickname. Rusty Staub was likely still a teenager when this photo was taken – He did not turn 20 until just prior to opening day in 1964. He has at least 286 of his 292 career Home Runs in front of him. Le Grand Orange would go on to become an original Expo and would later win an NL pennant with the New York Mets.

1963 was the fifth time that Topps presented the awards that started in 1959. Starting in 1961 the Rookie Cup Award winner cards were identical to base cards except that they possess an “icon” of the trophy. Notice that the trophy has an engraving –  TOPPS 1963 ALL-STAR ROOKIE. There you have it, the 1964 card features the 1963 team.

Flip

1964 Topps #109 Rusty Staub (b-side)

Flipping the card over we see that in the last sentence Topps mentions Staub’s Rookie All-Star accomplishment. In addition to his MLB debut season numbers we also get Rusty’s impressive 1962 professional debut 23 HR, 93 RBI, and .293 BA over 140 games.

One of the things that we once again are not getting with 2018 Topps cards is a Trivia Question or cartoon. But in 1964 Topps had them – in fact Topps even went to the trouble to hide the answers from us. Fortunately this card was much loved by a previous owner, who has gone to the trouble of scratching off the answer and we now know that the last AL player to have a four homer game was the Indians Rocky Colavito in 1959. Well, that was true in 1964 anyway.

Rocky’s big game occurred on June 10, 1959 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium where the Indians defeated the Orioles in an 11-8 slugfest. On the card a funny cartoon shows a pitcher getting shelled – this is symbolic of either Starter Jerry Walker or relievers Arnie Portocarrero or Ernie Johnson.

The artist hyphenated COLA-VITO, making Rocky Colavito sound like some sort of fancy new energy drink.  Rocky is now 84 years old and as of his 2008 SABR Bio lives in Bernville, Pennsylvania — not far from Phungo Headquarters.

It has been 54 years since the Rusty Staub card was produced and the trivia answer is no longer current. If this cartoon quiz was produced today the answer would be Josh Hamilton. Other junior circuit members that have accomplished the fete since Colavito are Carlos Delgado and Mike Cameron. The most recent National Leaguer to hit four is JD Martinez,  who tagged the LA Dodgers pitching for the quadruple during a Diamondbacks  13-0 victory this past September.

Subset Checklist

73  Jimmy Hall OF
85  Pete Ward 3B
109  Rusty Staub 1B
125  Pete Rose 2B
130  Gary Peters LHP
168  Al Weis SS
330  Tommy Harper OF
412 Ray Culp RHP
435  Vic Davalillo OF
457  Jesse Gonder C
I realize this is pretty vanilla but  I have been deep diving All-Star Rookie teams a bit lately and found some interesting and want to open with a posting that gives some background on the original card. I anticipate this being the first of three postings on the 1963 Topps All-Star Rookie Cup Team.
Topps All-Star Rookie Cup Team
For more background on the origins of the Topps All-Star team I have written a posting at my personal blog Phungo.  The article can be found here.

Sources and Links

Phungo 1963 Topps Rookie Cup Index

Phungo Game Dated Cards Index

SABR Bio Rocky ColavitoJoseph Wancho

Wax Pack Gods

Baseball Card Database

Baseball-Ref

Baseball Almanac

Tom Terrific and Ted Who?

68 Wrapper
1968 Wax Pack

The splendor of baseball card collecting was germinated 50 years ago when I opened my first “wax pack.” I distinctly remember two of the cards I pulled that day: Tom Seaver and Ted Kubiak.

IMG_20180201_20045267 Seaver

The Seaver card-which is pictured above- is pressed in my memory, mostly due to my brother’s attempts to take it away from me. This is Tom’s first solo card after being paired with Bill Denehy on what has become a rare and extremely pricey ‘67 Rookie Stars card (also pictured). My brother must have known that Seaver was an up-and-coming star. I only knew that he wanted it, so I was not about to give it up easily.

68 Seaver Back

Tom’s card is a classic portrait coupled with the Topps ’67 All-Star Rookie trophy. The card back informs us that: “The young righthander is the most exciting young pitcher to ever wear a New York Met uniform.” Of course this statement turned out to be extremely accurate, but it didn’t take much to be the best young player in Mets history in ’68.

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The Seaver card is memorable for a variety of reasons. But Ted Kubiak? The wisp of silver hair sticking out from Ted’s slicked back locks has stuck with me from first sight. The close- cropped head shot was used on many A’s cards in ’68, since that was the year Charlie Finley moved the A’s to Oakland from Kansas City. Players depicted wearing caps had the “KC” airbrushed away.

Ted was a classic “good glove, bad bat” guy. The back of his card essentially predicts his career arc: “Ted is capable of playing several infield positons. Ted is a great defensive player.” His one opportunity as an everyday player came in 1970 with the Brewers, where split time between 2nd and shortstop. Of course, he would have been a regular for the Pilots if they had still existed in ’70. Incidentally, Kubiak was one of many players traded away by Finley, only to be reacquired later.  Ted was on all three of the A’s championship teams of the ‘70s, primarily as a utility man.

Ted’s card suffered water damage from a sprinkler when I left it on the porch railing. I may have disposed of the card, since it wasn’t with my other ’68 duplicates.

Although I’m not 100% certain they were in the first pack, Tom Tresh and Al Downing cards were contained in my first few packs.

Anyone else remember a specific card pulled from the first pack?

 

Ticketron Legacy

Jack White is playing at Brewery Ommegang on May 27. Tickets went on sale this morning at 10 AM and by 10:05 I had bought four. Done and done!

When Ticketron ruled the world, I had to go to an outlet, maybe a record store or a department store (at least in New York), check the chalkboard for what shows/events were coming and when tickets went on sale. If I was lucky, there wasn’t a line when I came back to buy and the actual purchasing process was miserable.

“Do you have two in Section 104?” I’d ask with seating chart in hand.

“No.”

“OK, do you have two in Section 106?”

“No.”

“OK, what do you have?” This hunting and pecking would go on forever. I’d leave with my tickets and the memory of a horrible experience. It was barbaric compared to today.

At least in California, at least in 1971, you got cards to ease the pain. Both sets – 20 Dodgers and 10 Giants – are things of beauty.

The Dodger set is borderless and bigger than the Giants’ set. Of the 20 cards, 19 are players and one is Jerry Doggett and Vin Scully, who did seem to appear in a lot of regional card issues. Not sure that happened very much with other broadcasters.

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The backs are horizontal schedules/promo pieces for the team and Ticketron. I assume you got a card every time you visited. Maybe they were distributed one per week (Player of the Week, get it?). I don’t know.

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The Giants’ set is smaller, in number and size, but 40% of the set are Hall of Famers. Because of this, or maybe they were produced in fewer number, the Giants’ set costs about twice as much as the Dodgers’ one.

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The backs are the same, though the Giants are vertical.

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When I first found out about these sets, I was able to buy the Dodgers pretty quickly/ It took forever to track down a Giants’ set. They are both well worth having. There’s also a Ticketron Phillies set from 1972, but I never looked for that one. Maybe I will now.

Are they cards though? Ah, forget it. That’s last week’s post.