Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A new look at a 1963 Pete Rose rookie

Back on April 18 in this blog, I presented my first-ever custom card in the 1963 Topps format, a Maury Wills piece. I said then that there would likely be more '63-style presentations forthcoming. Here is the first of them.

For 50+ years, card collectors have lamented that Pete Rose's rookie card was one of those multi-player "floating head" Rookie Stars cards in 1963 Topps.

It was natural, therefore, that with a 1963 Topps template in my repertoire, I should take a stab at what Topps might have come up with if they'd been able to look decades down the road.

To be sure, this is not the first time a custom card creator has put together a 1963 Topps-style Rose single-player card, but mine is the only one I know of that includes a card back.

Heck, creating card fronts is easy; I can knock one out in half an hour if I already have a template. It's the back that is the hard part. Reaching and writing the bio and stats and doing the graphic work to replicate  the original style is time consuming. But to me, that's part of the fun of making custom cards.

There's nothing much else to say about my new-fangled Rose rookie card.

Keep watching the blog . . . I've got at least one other 1963 custom coming along in the near future.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Duke's last hit was "ineligible"

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too. 

Due to a mistake by the S.F. Giants' front office, Duke Snider's last hit in the major leagues was technically "ineligible." Same with the last three innings pitched by Billy Pierce.

On Oct. 3, 1964, the Cubs were visiting the Giants in the penultimate regularly scheduled game of the season. 

Chicago was, as usual, way out of the NL pennant race, 18 games behind the Cardinals and having been stuck in 8th place since July 23.

Theoretically, at least, the Giants were still in contention. Going into Saturday's games, St. Louis was in the lead by half a game. Cincinnati, hosting Philadelphia, was half a game behind. The Phillies were a game and a half in back. San Francisco was in fourth, two games out.

There were only two games to play and any number of combinations of wins and losses among those teams could have sent the season into overtime.

At Candlestick, the Cubs were ahead 5-7 at the top of the 7th inning when Billy Pierce came on in relief; he was the Giants' sixth pitcher that afternoon. He finished out the game, giving up three more Chicago runs.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Giants were behind 5-10. Duke Snider came in to lead off the home-half, pinch-hitting for Pierce. He connected for a single and later scored on a two-out Willie Mays homer. The rally ended there, as did San Francisco's 1964 pennant hopes.

When the team arrived for the season-ender on Sunday, Pierce and Snider were told they would not suit up. A telegram had arrived that morning from NL president Warren Giles informing the team it had erred in prematurely seeking waivers on Pierce and Snider for purposes of releasing the at the end of the season (both players had previously made it known they would be retiring).

The league office told the Giants that if they had won Saturday's game, they would have had to forfeit the victory or replay the game. 

The pennant race sorted itself on Sunday, with the Cardinals beating the Mets and capturing the flag. In Cincinnati, the Phillies and Jim Bunning shut out the Reds, leaving the Phils in second and the Reds in third. The Giants again lost to the Cubs, ending the season in fourth place.

Since there was no protest, Snider's and Pierce's stats from the game were entered into their official tallies.

Pierce ended the season with a 3-0 record and eased into retirement with a lifetime 211-169 record, Snider, playing out the string, had been used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter by San Francisco. He hit just .210 in 1964. His retirement came after 18 major league seasons in which he hit .295 with 407 home runs. He spent the next three seasons managing L.A. Dodgers farm clubs out west. In 1980 he went into the Hall of Fame.

Friday, April 24, 2015

1961-63 Post cereal box-back card project begins

For the past few weeks I've been working on an ambitious custom card project involving the 1961-1963 Post cereal box-back cards.

By only producing cards of 200 players each year, Post was unable to include cards of more than half of the major league players each year. Naturally, some of my favorite players didn't make it onto the backs of boxes of Rice Krinkles, Alpha-Bits, Post Toasties, etc.

Like many 10-13-year-old card collectors in the early 1960s, I made a shambles of shelves in the grocery stores' cereal aisles looking for Milwaukee Braves cards and other favorites.

My very favorite cereal in those days was Oat Flakes. I didn't realize at the time that I was unusual in that regard and that the cards I cut off those boxes would someday be regarded as scarcities among the Post series.

Alas, I no longer have them. Sometime around 1971 I packaged up all of my childhood baseball cards and sent them off to Woody Gelman's Card Collectors Company. The $17 I received was soon squandered on beer and 36-cent gasoline for my 1961 Cadillac.

While looking over the catalog from my friend Steve Bloedow's CollectAuctions' April 2 offering, something clicked when I saw he was offering a nice run of Post cereal box backs, both baseball and football.

I was delighted to find that on his web site, the scans of the offered box backs were large and in high resolution. I snapped them up and soon began the process of replacing the original player images with those of guys who hadn't originally made the cut.

The 1961 season was an expansion year for the American League, with the "old" Washington Senators moving to Minnesota and a new Senators team being formed. Out West, Gene Autry brought the American League to California by creating the Los Angeles Angels.

Like most of the baseball world, Post was surprised with how fast the stodgy AL moved when it decided to expand. While they were able to include cards of the Twins-nee-Senators in their 1961 set, they were not able to have cards of the new Washington team nor the L.A. Angels.

My new box back is based on the premise that after Post issued its first 200 cards in 1961, it issued a 50-card update to add players on the new teams, update traded players' cards and include a few promising first-year players.

My six custom cards in the 1960 Post format fit that premise in various ways.

Carl Yastrzemski. He made his big-league debut in 1961, taking over in left field after Ted Williams retired. Although I don't believe Post issued any 1961 cards showing players' minor league stats, it was the best option for my card.

Jim Kaat. Although "Kitty" had been up with the Senators briefly in both 1959 and 1960, he didn't become part of the regular rotation until after the move to Minnesota. Post didn't have a Kaat card until 1963. I originally worked up a Kaat card in the original format of the '61P set, with the pitcher in a Senators' uniform and the "MINNEAPOLIS" team designation. While the photo used was pretty much on par with most of the real 1961 Post pictures, it didn't fit in well with the rest of my "high numbers," so I opted for a photo of Kaat in a Twins' uniform.

Sandy Koufax. It's not surprising that Post didn't include Koufax in the original series. Through the 1960 season he hadn't yet really made his bones in the bigs. He had yet to have a winning season with Los Angeles, and was walking nearly 100 a season. With 1961 being his breakout year, it's reasonable to assume Koufax would have been picked for an update series.

Ted Kluszewski. Klu did have a card in the original 1961 Post set, as a White Sox. The Angeles had made him the 51st player pick in the expansion draft. If Post had issued an update series, there's no doubt he would have been included in the Angels' team set.

Jackie Jensen. Again, you can't fault Post for not having a Jensen card in its inaugural set. Citing his fear of flying and desire to spend his time at home in California, Jensen had retired and sat out the 1960 season. Post did have a Jensen card in 1962.

Frank Howard. I was surprised to find that Post had never issued a card for Hondo. I can see not including him in 1961, because to that point he had up-and-down between the Dodgers and the minor leagues every season. But by 1962-63 his monster home runs in ballparks all over the country had made him a fan favorite and he could easily have been picked for the later Post sets.

In assembling my 1961-style box back I had a significant choice to make. I decided to format the back in the original manner. That is, depending on their placement on the back, each card shares 1, 2 or 3 of its black borders with other cards.

That layout made it difficult for kids 50 years ago to cut out nice-looking cards; they could either cut the cards inside of the black borders, or include the borders on a couple of cards at the expense of the others. That same dilemma will confront those who acquire my custom sheet.

In deference to player and team collectors, I've also made singles of each of my 1961 Post customs, with complete black borders on all sides.

As per my usual custom, I'll make extras of my single cards available. I'm also going to offer the complete box-back. You might be surprised to hear that you can order the box back at a price that is way less than I'd have to get for six individual cards.

For me the research, writing, picture selection and the rest of the creative process is where I derive my principal pleasure in creating custom cards. Printing and cutting is the necessary evil, since I like to have completed cards in hand, rather than just existing as .jpeg files.

Since I don't have to align card fronts and backs, or painstakingly cut sheets into singles, I'm able to offer my custom box back at a significant price break.

Check in on the blog in coming weeks for the debut of my 1962 and 1963 Post cereal-style box backs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Where's Jimmy Burke's W.S. ring?

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms ofThe Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too. 

Did a gold-digger wind up with Jimmy Burke’s 1932 Yankees World Series ring, or was it a gift to a long-time caring friend?

I found myself pondering that after I read a mid-1943 report in The Sporting News concerning the disbursement of the estate of long-time professional ballplayer, manager and coach Sunny Jim Burke.

Burke had played professionally all over the Midwest between 1896-1913, and been a major league manager with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1905 and the Browns, 1918-20 (he was the only man to manage both St. Louis major league teams). He was an off-and-on minor league manager between 1906-25, mostly in the American Association.

He was a major league coach for the Tigers (1912, 1914-18), Red Sox (1921-24) and Cubs (1926-30) before moving over to the N.Y. Yankees with Joe McCarthy in 1931. Burke’s baseball career ended when he suffered a stroke after the 1933 season, rendering him an invalid until the time of his death of pneumonia in a St. Louis hospital on March 26, 1942.

More than a year later, this news brief appeared in the "Caught on the Fly" column . . .

Miss Nellie Smith, former executor of the estate of the late Jimmy Burke, who managed both the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns and served as coach of the New York Yankees, was charged with concealing more than $83,000 of assets in the estate in an action filed in probate court in St. Louis, May 29, by William Gauvin, trust officer of the Tower Grove Bank and Trust Co.

In a petition for citation for concealment of assets, Gauvin stated he had good reason to believe that Miss Smith, a friend of Burke, is "withholding and concealing $83,000 in deeds of trust believed to have been held by Burke, $1,500 in bonds, a diamond ring presented to Burke by the New York Yankees and a watch given him by Louisville baseball fans."

Burke was manager at
Indianapolis in 1909 when
this T206 card was issued.
The inventory of the estate was filed by Miss Smith six weeks after his death, March 26, 1942, and was listed at $10,845. Three days later 13 relatives sued to have the will set aside, alleging Burke was not of sound and disposing mind when it was drawn. The bank has replaced Miss Smith as executor.

Scouring of The Sporting News for a number of months after the initial account, and a desultory google-search on the topic failed to turn up any further mention of the affair. The disposition of his Yankees ring is unrecorded.

During his playing and managing days, Burke had the reputation of being a fighter. In his days with the Cardinals, Burke had trouble with a St. Louis sportswriter named Joe Finnegan. In September of 1904, after Finnegan had called Burke "a cow's foot," (apparently those were fighting words a century ago), the two mixed it up at the Victoria Hotel in Chicago.

The Pittsburgh Press provided this colorful blow-by-blow of the fight:

“First round–Burke hit Finnegan in the lobby, and followed the blow with a left hook on the back of the neck, breaking the scribe’s collar. Burke pressed the advantage and struck Finnegan near the cigar stand. Finnegan blocked cleverly, uppercut with the left and caught Burke in the snout. Finnegan crossed his right and landed on Jimmy’s potato-trap. Burke jolted Finnegan in the rotunda and followed with a short swing near the Turkish parlor. Finnegan shot the right to the ear, and the left to the lamp. They clinched. Terrific short-arm fighting, completely wrecking Finnegan’s collar and cuff. Johnny Farrell separated the men. Time.
“Second round
—The house detective threw both fighters out in the alley. Time. Decision to Finnegan.”

Monday, April 20, 2015

Expert rated Reese as baseball's top bridge player

In 1963 Charles Goren, the world's top bridge
expert, named Pee Wee Reese and Bill Wade
among the best bridge players in the sports world.

Do you know anybody that plays bridge?

I'm 63 years old and I don't know anybody under the age of 70 who plays bridge.

For that matter, I don't know anybody more than a generation younger than myself that plays cards of any kind; that is, actually plays cards with others rather than solitaire on a computer screen or on-line poker.

When I worked at Krause Publications we had a long-time sheepshead game going on. An amorphous group of five to ten would play on coffee breaks and at lunch for a total of 45 minutes or an hour every work day. Occasionally we'd get an evening game going, as well, where sheepshead could be played as it was meant to, with rude language and beer.

For a number of years before the heyday of Texas hold'em we also had a monthly poker game, but that broke up with the passing of our principal host.

I miss those games.

Recently in a 1963 issue of The Sporting News, I read a piece about top bridge players in the sports world as enumerated by Charles Goren, the top bridge expert in the world from the 1940s through the 1960s. 

Goren's books on bridge sold more than 10 million copies. By 1958, his daily bridge column was running in nearly 200 newspapers and he had a weekly column in Sports Illustrated. From 1959-64 he had a television show on ABC.

Asked in 1963 to pick the top players in the sports world, Goren named Iowa athletic director Forest Evashevski as No. 1. Golfer Bobby Jones was Goren's pick for the second spot. He credited Arnold Palmer with having the greatest potential as a bridge player if he could have fund the time to work on his game.

In pro football ranks, Goren named Chicago Bears quarterback Bill Wade as the top player.

Among baseball players, Pee Wee Reese was Goren's pick for the top spot. He also gave a nod to Don Hoak, and said that Hoak's Pirates were the top team when it came to clubhouse bridge play.

In 1963 it was estimated that some 40 million Americans were playing bridge. My parents played bridge. All my aunts and uncles played bridge. Most of the neighbors played bridge. If I hadn't taken up poker and sheepshead at such an early age, I probably would have played bridge.

I'm too old now to learn such a complex card game. Besides the potential pool of bridge partners is dying off.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

'59, '63 Topps Maury Wills customs

Many vintage-card collectors know the story of why there are no Topps cards of Maury Wills as a Los Angeles Dodger.

The official line is that when Topps began signing players in 1951, their scout didn't think Wills had what it took to make the major leagues, and no contract was proffered to him.

For a number of years, it looked as if the scout was right, Wills was a banjo-hitting (also, coincidentally, a banjo-playing) utility player in the low minors. The Dodgers' farm people kept him moving around in an attempt to find a position that he could field without being a detriment to the defense.

But Wills always could run, and as he worked his way slowly up the Brooklyn-L.A. farm system, he became a proficient base stealer.

After nine years in the bushes, he was finally ready for The Show. He credited Spokae manager Bobby Bragan, for whom he played in 1958 with turning him into a switch-hitter, paving his way for promotion to the big club. Wills burst onto the big-league stage in time to help the Dodgers win their first World's Championship in L.A. He was integral to three more Dodgers pennants, piling up an MVP, multiple All-Star selections, a few Gold Gloves and six consecutive stolen-base titles before being traded to the Pirates for 1967.

While there were no Maury Wills cards to be found in Topps packs until 1967, kids still had a few options.

If you lived in SoCal, Wills could be found on a dozen or more local/regional baseball cards and team-issued collectibles. Nationally, he was available on Post cereal and Jell-O box backs 1961-63. When Fleer made a run at Topps monopoly on current-player bubblegum cards in 1963, Maury Wills,, fresh from his MVP win, was their main attraction.

Over the years I've been asked to create some of the "missing" Topps Maury Wills cards; it was never high on my to-do list. Besides, lots of other custom-card guys were filling the gaps (though few, if any, have undertaken to make the card backs).

Recently, however, one of my most regular followers made a good case, and the availability of a couple of really nice circa 1960 color photos compelled me to action.

Thus you have here my take on 1959 and 1963 Topps-style Maury Wills cards.

These will likely be the only Topps-style cards of Wills that I undertake, though it is tempting to see what I could do to improve what Topps did in 1969 making an Expos card of Wills with a heavily airbrushed Pirates uniform.

While working on my '63-style Wills card, I noticed that Topps was not entirely consistent in some of its details between earlier and later series.

For instance, on some cards the player position on front and back was spelled out, while on some cards it was abbreviated. On some Dodgers cards, the team name was spelled out, "LOS ANGELES DODGERS", while on some cards it was abbreviated "L.A. DODGERS".

In the biographical data, sometimes the birth date was spelled out, as "Oct. 2, 1932", and sometimes is was presented as "10/2/32".

Another curious inconsistency is that beginning with card #512, in the midst of the high-numbers, the cards included a vertical rule in the stats box between the TEAM and LEA. columns. Strange, eh?

For my 1963 Wills card, I picked and chose the options that best suited my design eye.

Since I've now created templates for 1959 All-Star Rookie and 1963 Topps cards, you may see more of them in the future.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rozelle card revenue raise reported

In reading over early 1963 microfilm of The Sporting News recently, I spotted an illustration about football card revenue on Page 1 of the Jan. 12 issue.

The article detailed Rozelle's first three years (1960-1962) as Commissioner of the NFL. 

One of the specifics from the article that was used in the illustration concerned Rozelle's role in raising football card revenue to the players' pension fund from $15,000 in 1960 to $110,000 in 1962.

The cartoon depicts a couple of kids climbing on a grocery store shelf in search of (presumably) a box of Post cereal with Y.A. Tittle among the cards printed on the box back.

I always enjoy finding hobby-specific content when I'm reading those 50-year-old TSN back issues.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mertes busted up two extra-innings no-hitters

Though Mertes was photographed in the
uniform of the Chicago White Stockings
on this 1903-04 E107 caramel card, his
team is given as the N.Y. Giants.
Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too. 

Versatile Sam Mertes played every position during his 10 years in the major leagues around the turn of the 20th Century.

He also played pro ball all over the country. A San Francisco native, Mertes broke into pro ball at 19, playing for three different teams in the Central California League in 1892. He first made the major league in 1896 with Philadelphia. After a year back in the bushes he returned to the National League with the Anson-less Chicago Orphans in 1898-1900. 

When the American League was formed he jumped to the Chicago White Stockings in 1901-02, then spent 1903-06 with the N.Y. Giants and ended his big league days with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1906.

In those 10 major league seasons, Mertes hit .279 and in 1903 led the N.L. with 32 doubles and tied with 104 RBIs.

Before, during and after, his years in the major leagues, Mertes played in the minors from Wilmington to Stockton and Toronto to Los Angeles between 1892-1909.

If he his remembered by baseball historians today at all, it is because Mertes had the distinction of breaking up two no-hitters with extra-inning singles. 

In the debut season of the American League, on May 9, 1901, Mertes, playing for the Chicago White Stockings, singled in the 10th inning to ruin a no-hit bid by Cleveland's Earl Moore and spark a game-winning (4-2) rally. Chicago went on to win the first A.L. pennant.

With John McGraw's N.Y. Giants on June 11, 1904, Mertes broke up a no-hitter by Cubs pitcher Bob Wicker, again with a 10th inning single. It was the only hit given up by Wicker in winning 0-1 in 12 innings. Once again, Mertes' team won the pennant that season.

Though his big league heyday fell between the first great period of tobacco card issue in the late 1880s, and second era of cigarette cards, 1909-1919, Mertes can be found on a decent number of baseball cards, most of them scarce-to-rare. Any of them will set you back several hundred to several thousand dollars -- if you can find them.

The most common of Mertes' cards is in the caramel issue known as E107 issued in 1903-04. His rarest card was also issued in 1904, with the Allegheny Card Company's baseball game. Like all Allegheny cards, it is unique.

Mertes also appears on at least two cabinet card issues of the 1900s. He is pictured in a N.Y. Giants uniform on a cabinet card from renowned Boston photographer Carl Horner (shown here at left).

There are also three variations of Mertes' cards in the Sporting Life cabinet card series. He was issued pictured with the Giants (on right) in 1903, the Cardinals

in 1906 and the Boston Doves in 1907, though he doesn't appear to have ever played for Boston. In the same W600 cabinet series, cards of both of Mertes' pitcher victims Earl Moore and Bob Wicker, were issued.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Customs expand '60T All-Star selections

I've always been a fan of the 1960 Topps nigh-number All-Star cards. Maybe it's the white background, or the big colorful "60" or the player selection (lots of Milwaukee Braves).

I don't know on what basis Sport magazine made its all-star selections for that subset, but a lot of great players were  missed.

Two such worthy selections are the subjects of my custom card additions to that issue.

Ted Williams, of course, wasn't under a Topps contract in 1960. And Roberto Clemente, whom Topps was trying to convert to "Bob" in that era, was just coming into his own as a star outfielder.

There's really nothing much to add here, I'll just post the pictures for your enjoyment. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

CFL kicker held pro field goal record 1964-?

For a time -- I'm not sure how many years -- the record for longest field goal in professional football was held by a Canadian-league kicker.

On Aug. 17, 1964, Bill Mitchell of the Edmonton Eskimos kicked a 58-yard field goal in a Canadian Football League game at Calgary. The effort was for naught as Edmonton lost to the Stampeders 35-6.

At the time Mitchell's kick eclipsed the NFL and AFL field goal distance marks.

In the NFL, the record was then held by Baltimore Colts kicker Bert Rechichar. His kick of 56 yards came at home in a 13-9 win over the Chicago Bears on Sept 27, 1953.

George Blanda at the time held the AFL record. On Dec. 3 1961, he'd kicked a 55-yard FG at Houston as the Oilers beat the Chargers 33-13. 

I noodled around the internet for a bit, trying unsuccessfully to discover if there were any field goals in the AFL, CFL or NFL longer than Mitchell's 58-yarder between 1964 and 1970, when Tom Dempsey booted his 63-yard record-setter.

Since 1964 there have been only four longer field goals in the CFL than Mitchell's 58-yarder. The current CFL record is 62 yards, set Oct. 27, 2001 by Paul McCallum of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Three kickers n the NFL tied Dempsey at 63 yards. Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski in 2011 and David Akers in 2012.

The current NFL mark is 64 yards, by Broncos booter Matt Prater on Dec. 8, 2013 in the thin air at Denver against the Titans.

Mitchell was born in London, England, in 1935, emigrating to Canada at age 11. He played college football at the University of Western Ontario.

In 1960 he was the No. 1 pick in the CFL draft as a two-way lineman by the Toronto Argonauts. He played with Toronto 1960-62, with Edmonton 1963-65 and the BC Lions 1966-68.

Mitchell's only football card is in the 1962 Topps CFL 2-on-1 black-and-white set. He was also included in the 1963 Nalley's potato chips CFL plastic coin set.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

'67 custom wraps up Jay's career

I've said it many times on my blog in the past . . . I wasn't much into baseball or cards after 1960.

Therefore, I never realized that Joey Jay returned to the Braves in mid-1966 after 6-1/2 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Jay, of course, was a bonus baby signing with the Milwaukee Braves out of high school in 1953. 

I've read that Charlie Grimm had no use for bonus players and that he kept Jay firmly planted on the bench until mid-1955 when he could be -- and was -- sent out to the minors. After  2-1/2 seasons in the minors with a 29-22 record, and after going 17-10 in 1957, Jay was called back up to Milwaukee for 1958.

In the next three seasons for the Braves, Jay was 22-24. After the season he was traded to the Reds with Juan Pizzaro (one of my all-time favorite 1957 Topps cards) for Roy McMillan.

With his new team, Jay had a career year in 1961, leading the league with 21 wins (10 losses) and four shut-outs. He was named to both All-Star games, put appeared in neither, having pitched just two days earlier in both cases. He started and won Game 2 of the World Series, allowing just four hits at Yankee Stadium.

He followed up with a 21-14 mark in 1962. From 1963 until June, 1966, Jay had a 33-45 record. He was 6-2 in mid-June when the Reds traded him to the Braves -- in their first year in Atlanta -- for Hank Fischer. That deal wasn't productive for either team. Jay was 0-4 for the Braves for the rest of 1966 and Fischer was 0-6 for Cincinnati before he was traded to the Red in mid-August.

Jay's return to the Braves marked the end of his major league career. He was released after the season, eventually being picked up by the Phillies. He couldn't make the big club's roster and after pitching four games at Class A Tidewater, he retired from pro ball.

They didn't have to hold any benefits for Jay after his playing days were over . . . he owned more than 30 producing gas and oil wells in Wast Virginia,

As I mentioned earlier, I was unaware the Jay had ended his big league days back with the Braves . . . until one day when I saw among the Topps Vault eBay auctions portrait and posed-action photos of Jay in an Atlanta uniform.

I immediately decided to do a "final" Joe Jay card in the 1967 Topps format and you see it now before you.

On a mostly unrelated note, until I read it recently in a 1964 issue of The Sporting News, I did not know that in the post-war era, the Milwaukee Braves seldom rehired players who they had previously dealt away or released. According to the article, it happened only three times into the early 1960s. 

In 1961 they brought back Johnny Antonelli, a bonus baby who had pitched for the Braves in Boston (1948-50), spent 1951-52 in the army, then returned to Milwaukee in 1953. He had been traded to the Giants in 1964.

Alvin Dark had been with Boston 1946, 1948-49 before he, too, was traded to the Giants in 1950. He returned to the Braves in mid-1960.

Both Dark and Antonelli ended their major league playing careers after their comeback seasons with Milwaukee. 

The "other" Frank Thomas came back to the Braves during the 1965 season. He had been with Milwaukee most of 1961, before being traded to the Mets in the post-season. He ended his big league days with a handful of games with the Cubs in 1966.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Standard Catalog Update: Champ Hats Jackie Robinson

The discovery of a significant, probably rookie-year, Jackie Robinson premium picture in an existing issue has been reported by long-time catalog contributor and vintage collector Larry Serota of Florida.

The piece is a premium picture issued by Champ Hats, likely in 1947, based on the caption that reads: "THE NEWEST DODGER CHAMP, Jackie Robinson, pulls in a wide, low throw His fielding is top-notch -- and so is his choice of Champ Hats".

For a number of years, the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards has carried a two-player checklist for Champ Hats premium pictures: Mickey Vernon and Dixie Walker. The year was speculatively stated as 1947, based on that short list.

Reference to Robinson as the "newest" Dodger seems to strengthen that supposition.

The newly reported Robinson is, like the others, in black-and-white, 8" x 10," blank-back format. Unlike the Vernon and Walkers pictures, the Robinson is horizontally formatted. It also differs in the style of the caption.

And a Jackie Robinson "whatzit?"

Accompanying Larry's report of the Champ Hat Robinson was an inquiry about a second, currently unattributed, Robinson picture.

The 5" x 8" black-and-white picture has Robinson printed back-to-back with a picture of Dick Wakefield. My best guess is that the Wakefield photo shows him as a Detroit Tiger, for whom he played 1941, 1943-44, 1946-49. He also played three games each for the Yankees (1950) and Giants (1952). There are facsimile signatures of each player.

According to Serota, the Robinson-Wakefield piece is printed on thin stock described as similar to contemporary picture-pack issues.

The files of such mystery pieces that I maintained while editor of the "big book" were discarded years ago. But somewhere in my memory is a recollection that a similar item found in hobby commerce was believed to have been a page taken out of a late-1940s or early 1950s baseball book.

If that proves to be the case, some reader will likely be able to cite the book's name and publication date. Of course if it does turn out to have been excised from a book, the piece's collectible value will be minimal.

If you have any details to share, you can email me at scbcguy(at symbol)yahoo(dot)com.

4/8/15 UPDATE:

Collector Shaun Fyffe has provided some interesting thoughts on the Jackie Robinson Champ Hats discovery . . . 

"Great article. The Champ picture was taken on opening day (prior to the start of the game)... it's the same as the picture in this thread, though from a different angle. It's also the same image used on one of the 13 Bond Bread cards. 

"This is speculation, as I wasn't alive in '47, but I'd be willing to bet that the Champ Hats premium came out after the season was finished in October.

"Here's why: Branch Rickey had forbid Jackie from signing any endorsement deals during the season. It wasn't until October of 1947 that Rickey conceded, and allowed Jackie to sign his endorsement deals with Bond Bread, Old Gold, Borden's Milk, and perhaps Champ Hats? (See this article, where it mentions he endorsed hats: http://www.markroesler.com/pdf/articles/business.pdf ) 

"While he was part of the larger Bond Bread card set, the fact that there is such a small checklist leads me to believe some sort of agreement was signed for using his likeness. Calling him the newest Dodger champ would make sense too, considering the Dodgers won the NL pennant.

"Dixie Walker and Jackie were both highly sought after in terms of endorsements. As I stated in another thread, Walker was the face of Wonder Bread... Jackie, of Bond Bread.

"With that being said... Walker was traded to the Pirates in December, 1947. With Robinson's premium being different (horizontal) than the other two, I wouldn't be surprised if his was released at a different date (perhaps later). I'm guessing the premium came out in late October / early November, 1947.

"On another note, the other premium shows Robinson wearing a fielder's glove as opposed to a first-base mitt. That leads me to believe that the second photo is likely from 1948 or 1949 (given the Tigers uniform of Wakefield)."

Monday, April 6, 2015

Standard Catalog Update: 1961-65 Wilson Meats

In a blog entry on Feb. 22, I reported the discovery of a Wilson Meats premium picture of Frank Howard with the Washington Senators.

This is what was printed at the time . . . 

Until the report of a Wilson Meats premium picture of Frank Howard as a Senator was received from veteran vintage collector Larry Serota of Florida, it was assumed from the known checklist that these were strictly a 1961 issue.

The presence of Hondo in a Senators uniform has to be attributed to his time with Washington 1965-71.

Previously all known Wilson Meats premiums depicted players who were with the L.A. Dodgers or L.A. Angels in 1961.

This is the introduction I wrote for the Wilson Meats issue in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards some years ago:

It is likely these 5-1/2"x 8-1/2" photos were prepared for promotional appearances by players on behalf of the meat company. The player name and sometimes team name appears at the bottom of the photo and the sponsor's message appears at the bottom, "Courtesy of WILSON & CO., Inc., Fine Meat Products." Backs are blank. The pictures are often found with player autographs, another indicator of their use at personal appearances.

Larry has now added a couple of more additions to the checklist, and I found one of my own while poking around the internet.

New to the checklist are pose variations of Frank Howard (portrait and batting) as a Dodger,
Ron Perranoski pose variations (dark background, light background), Maury Wills, Ed Roebuck, both Dodgers and Bill Moran, Angels.

The lack of a team name printed on the Roebuck premium makes me wonder if it was issued in 1963 or 1964, after Roebuck had been traded to the Senators on July 30, 1963.

With these additions, I'd rework the checklist as follows . . . 

1961-65 Wilson Meats 
Ron Fairly, Dodgers
Gil Hodges, Dodgers
Frank Howard, Dodgers (batting)
Frank Howard, Dodgers (chest-up portrait)
Frank Howard, Senators
Ted Kluszewski, Angels
Bill Moran, Angels
Ron Perranoski, Dodgers (dark background)
Ron Perranoski, Dodgers (light background)
Ed Roebuck, Dodgers
John Roseboro, Dodgers
Maury Wills, Dodgers

I'd say chances are good this checklist will continue to expand with new discoveries.

Check back tomorrow to see a couple of newly reported Jackie Robinson items.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lawn jockeys in A's uniform were 1960s K.C. fad

In the early 1960s a fad developed around Kansas City for A's fans to paint their iron "jockey" or "stable boy" lawn statues in team colors.

According to an account in the Jan. 11, 1964, issue of The Sporting News, the number of such lawn decorations exceeded two dozen.

About that time, however, team owner Charley Finley outraged a significant portion of his local fan base by threatening to move the team to Louisville--or Oakland--if Kansas City wouldn't sweeten his stadium lease to at least as good a deal as they were giving the Chiefs of the American Football League. 

When the city agreed to Charley O's terms, he asked for further concessions and went so far as to sign a two-year agreement with Louisville, even though that city's stadium didn't meet minimum American League requirements. 

It became evident that Finley was going to move his team no matter what city fathers did and the furor from jilted fans redoubled. 

One fan's protest was depicted in TSN with a photo of one of the A's-uniformed stable boy statues holding a sign disparaging the A's owner.

In 1962 the K.C. A's ended the season in ninth place in the 10-team AL; attendance was dead last at 635,675. When the team moved up to eighth place in 1963, attendance climbed to 762,364, about 20% better and eighth in the league. In the face of Finley's threats to move, attendance in 1964 fell back to 642,478 (-16%), second-worst in the major leagues.

It took three more years of bad baseball--two cellar finishes and one seventh-place-- and poor attendance before Finley was able to make his escape to Oakland for 1968.

Accompanying the above photo in TSN of one of the lawn decorations was this cutline:

At the start of the 1963 season, Mr. and Mrs. T.L. Cox (address redacted), Kansas City, painted the uniform of their iron stable boy Kelly green and gold with the fancy letter "A" on the shirt and "KC" on the cap--a nearly perfect replica of the A's uniform--in an effort to boost club interest and attendance. At least 25 other stable boy owners in greater Kansas City followed suit. Each time the Athletics would win Cox would have the boy holding an American flag upright. Whenever the A's lost, the flag's position was changed to "half staff." However since Finley has threatened to move the A's following unsuccessful stadium rental talks with city officials, this "Finley Go Home" sign has appeared.

If you're of a mind to revive the fad, and not afraid of the political correctness police, you can buy a modern reproduction of the iron stable boy/lawn jockey statues for $250-300. The better pieces are well detailed, measure about 44" tall and weigh something over 150 pounds. Cruder knockoffs in pot metal or concrete can be had cheaper.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Custom shows Dean Chance as Oriole


Recently while reading microfilm of the 1964-65 seasons of The Sporting News I gained a deeper appreciation for Dean Chance.

Chance had become the Los Angeles Angels’ first 20-game winner in 1964 (20-9), leading the major leagues with a 1.65 ERA and 11 shutouts. That year he became the youngest pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award. 

The sporting papers in the 1964-65 off-season were filled with Chance's intentions to land a $50,000 contract from Gene Autry for 1965, doubling his salary.

He wasn’t going to put all his eggs in one basket, however, and in the Oct. 10, 1964 issue of The Sporting News he shared his winter plans with L.A. baseball writer Russ Newhan.

Laying out his off-season earnings program, he told the writer, “If I don’t make $40,000 to $50,000 this winter, I’ll really be disappointed.”

Newhan commented, “It’s an ambitious campaign considering that the 23-year-old righthander spent last winter pumping gas at a Los Angeles service station.”

Chance said his first post-season income would come from an auto dealership where he was going to participate in raffling off the baseball with which he shut-out the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 25 for his 20th victory of the season.

The Angels’ ace seemed most proud of a cross-country billiards exhibition tour he’d put together and then sold to Brunswick as a sponsor. Chance was going to serve as master of ceremonies and be accompanied by former world champions and trick-shot artists Jimmy Moore and Don Willis. Fellow Angels pitcher Bo Belinsky was going to join Chance for some of the exhibitions. Chance said he was going to collect $200 each for his bookings from New York to San Diego.

Chance also had scheduled a tour of bowling exhibitions sponsored by AMF, but Newhan’s article didn’t provide financial details.

Taking part in that old-time tradition of ballplayers’ promoting shaving products, Chance was going to collect $2,000 each (plus residuals) for filming two shaving cream TV commercials.

Chance was also going to do some acting, along with moundmate Bo Belinsky, in the musical Damn Yankees, at Melodyland, a theater-in-the-round located next to Diseyland. “I can’t dance or sing,” Chance admitted, “so I don’t know why they want me.”

Newhan revealed that Chance would also have income from a farm he owned.

Finally, Chance would be booking off-season banquet appearances for which he would be paid up to $750 each.

It all seems so nostalgic . . . major leaguers working in the off-season, and the concepts of “pumping gas,” and “service stations.”

Chance owned Yankees In 1964
During his Cy Young-winning season in 1964, Dean Chance owned the eventual AL pennant-winning N.Y. Yankees.

He was 4-0 versus the Bombers that season, while also shutting them out for 14 innings in a game in which he gave up only three hits but did not figure in the decision.

He gave up only one run in 50 innings pitched against New York; that was a homer to Mickey Mantle. His ERA against them was 0.18 and the Yankees hit just .086 off him.

Other fun facts 
At Northwestern High School in Wayne, Ohio, Chance’s teams won the state Class A (200 or fewer male students) championships in basketball (1957-58) and baseball (1959). He said in a 1965 TSN interview that he had pitched 18 no-hitters in high school, though most sources now credit him with 17.

He lived on a farm near Wooster, Ohio, about 40 miles from Newcomerstown, where Cy Young lived in retirement.

Chance was signed as an amateur free agent for the Baltimore Orioles in 1959 by future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser. The Angels acquired Chance in the 1961 expansion draft, after his first two seasons in the minor leagues.

I had never known that Chance had started his pro career as Orioles property and I thought it would be great fun to create a custom card reflecting that phase of his career.

I quickly exhausted my photo resources, however, and had all but abandoned my notion when I briefly mentioned my ambition for such a card while presenting on the blog (Feb. 8-14) some vintage Baltimore Orioles baseball cards from collector Alan Strout.

Alan saw my note and volunteered that he had a photo of Chance in an Orioles' uniform. I requested and received a scan of what looks like a team publicity photo. 

I colorized the portrait and dropped it into the format of the 1960 Topps Rookie Stars subset. The result is as you see it here.