In The Show For A Cup Of Coffee

Gaedel

In the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham”, Crash Davis passes time on a boring minor-league bus ride by telling his young teammates about being in the big leagues…”Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are all like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains”.

 

As a fan, you might feel sad for Crash because he’ll never get back to the show…or you’ll feel happy for him because he will always be a “former major leaguer”. Three weeks might not seem like much, but what about the hundreds of ballplayers who were only in the “show” for one game? With the help of baseball-reference.com, we took a look at the hundreds of players who fall into this category.

 

Amazingly, there are names on the list that most fans will recognize…

 

> Walter Alston – On September 27, 1936 he appeared in a game for the Cardinals and had one at-bat. He didn’t get back to the majors until 1954 as the Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He continued as the skipper of the team for 23 years and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983.

 

> Jeff Banister – At age 27, he got one AB with the Pirates in July of 1991. He eventually became a minor-league Manager and a big league Coach before managing the Rangers from 2015-2018.

 

> Eddie Gaedel – Possibly the most famous (or infamous) name on the list, his appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Browns in 1951 was the brain-child of team owner Bill Veeck. You see, Gaedel was only 3’7″ tall and had a strike zone no Pitcher could find. Of course, Gaedel got a four-pitch base-on-balls in his only at-bat. His contract was voided by the American League the next day, but Gaedel is forever in the record books.

 

> Moonlight Graham – Another unforgettable baseball movie “Field of Dreams” has Burt Lancaster playing the part of “Doc” Graham. However, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham was a real person and he played in one game for the Giants in June of 1905.

 

While the list is extensive, an interesting question is “are there players who still have a chance to get off the list?”

 

> John Bormann – Got one AB with the Pirates in 2017 and is currently with Bradenton in the A+ Florida League.

 

> Vicente Campos – Another Pirate, he pitched in one game during the 2016 season and is now on the roster at AA Altoona.

 

> Kyle Lloyd – Pitched 4 innings for the Padres in July of 2017, he’s on the staff at Amarillo of the AA Texas League.

 

There are numerous others playing for Independent teams or toiling in the Mexican League and we wish them well as they continue the pursuit of no longer being a “one-gamer”.

 

Maybe the best story of all is that of Adam Greenberg. He was a Cubs prospect who got called up in the Summer of 2005. In his first at-bat, he was hit by a pitch in the head and suffered a compound skull fracture. After a lengthy recovery, he got back on the field and played in the minors from 2006-2011 with no particular success. Even though he had appeared in a big-league game, he never had an official at-bat, so in 2012 the Marlins signed him to a one-day contract and gave him the chance to have that precious at-bat. Now he has the opportunity to frame two major-league uniforms and put them up on the wall. Wouldn’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

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He Hit The Ball Real Hard

'15 Gallo AR

Back in the days when ESPN was actually entertaining, Dan Patrick & Keith Olbermann seemed to have an endless amount of clichés that always fit even boring sports highlights. From “En Fuego” to “They’re Not Going To Get Him” to “The Whiff” to “You Can Try To Contain Him But You Can’t Stop Him” and so many more, the viewers were always in on the joke. When it came to baseball home runs, the go-to comments were “Gone” and “He Hit The Ball Real Hard”. With today’s analytical environment, you have to wonder how the boys would feel if they knew exactly how hard a player hit that ball?

 

My closest friend is a long-time baseball fan who goes all the way back to rooting for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in the 50’s. He was also a successful Fantasy Baseball player from 1984-2013, so his knowledge of the game and players had to be very detailed. Last season, we were talking baseball and I mentioned that “exit velocity” can help Fantasy players get a better read on the potential of a player. He looked at me and laughed because he thought I was messing with him and just making up a whimsical statistic. As a (now) casual baseball fan, he can’t be blamed for the skepticism because so much has changed since he stopped scouting players just a few years ago.

 

In 2015, Major League Baseball installed a state-of-art tracking technology in all 30 big league parks. It is called Statcast and allows for the analysis of a massive amount of baseball data. We’re talking Trackman Doppler radar and high definition Chyron Hego cameras. This allows all of us to quantify the raw skills of players in a way that was never even conceived when we first became fans of the game. This is where terms such as “spin rate”, “launch angle” and “pitch velocity” were born and they’re influencing our game every day.

 

“Exit Velocity” has a very simple definition…”How fast, in miles per hour, a ball was hit by a batter”. In the current era of baseball where records are being set for both Home Runs and Strikeouts, it tells teams the kind of damage a player can create when he hits the ball. The easiest example from 2018 is Joey Gallo of the Rangers who had a batting average of .206 and struck out 207 times in 500 At-Bats. In another time and place, he might have been sent to the minors but that’s no longer the case. Why? Because he had the highest average exit velocity in baseball last year (95.4 mph) and that equated to him producing 40 HR’s, 92 RBI’s and a .810 OPS. He hit three balls that left the bat at 117 mph! Earlier this month, he became the fist player in history to hit 100 HR’s before he hit 100 Singles. In case you might believe these are isolated examples, think about this…through May 11th, Strikeouts (10,362) exceeded Hits (9,683) for the 2019 season. If Bob Dylan was a baseball fan, he’d say that “the times they are a changing”.

 

As the first six weeks of the 2019 campaign goes into the books, who are the players with the best exit velocity so far? Are they stars, phenoms or over-looked part-timers? Here are the top twelve (with a minimum of 45 batted ball events)…

 

1) Aaron Judge, Yankees OF (99.0 mph) – Currently on the IL, but his OPS this season is .925

 

2) Joey Gallo, Rangers OF (96.7 mph) – He’s raised his BA to .248 and his OPS to 1.014

 

3) Gary Sanchez, Yankees C (96.1 mph) – Also spent some time on the IL, but his OPS sits at .961

 

4) Christian Yelich, Brewers OF (95.8 mph) – The reigning NL MVP isn’t letting up with 16 HR’s and a 1.216 OPS

 

5) Josh Bell, Pirates 1B (95.6 mph) – Sometimes viewed as an under-achiever, he seems to be breaking out at age 26 with a .988 OPS

 

6) Anthony Rendon, Nats 3B (94.9 mph) – A short trip to the IL hasn’t slowed him down…the OPS is 1.043

 

7) Josh Donaldson, Braves 3B (94.8 mph) – It appears the hitting skills are still there, but can he stay healthy?

 

8) Mitch Moreland, Red Sox 1B (94.7 mph) – A career year at age 33? 12 HR’s through six weeks with a .908 OPS that is 146 points above his lifetime mark

 

9) Nelson Cruz, Twins DH (94.7 mph) – Yes, he’s 38 and yes, he can still rake

 

10) Javier Baez, Cubs SS (94.6 mph) – Was already an incredibly valuable player and now a .971 OPS makes him even better

 

11) Christian Walker, D’Backs 1B (94.6 mph) – A 28 year-old who has never been given a chance to be a full-time player. His .368 OBP & .931 OPS have been eye-popping for snake fans. As a point of reference, Paul Goldschmidt’s OPS is .810

 

12) Kyle Schwarber, Cubs OF (94.5) – One of the few examples of exit velocity not translating into good performance.

 

The next four on the list are all having solid seasons…Yoan Moncada (94.4), Carlos Santana (94.4), Cody Bellinger (94.2) and Joc Pederson (94.2).

 

The next time I talk baseball with my friend, maybe the subject will be “Barrels”.

 

 

Jackie Robinson’s Cardboard Legacy

'56 Robinson EX 5

If something needs to be warmed up and you punch “42” seconds into the key pad of your microwave, you just might be a real baseball fan. A few weeks ago, MLB celebrated the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15th, 1947. Every player on every team wore #42 to pay homage to Jackie and all he accomplished…both on the field and in our society.

 

A few years ago, a good friend of mine made herself a bet that I would be able to identify three people in a grainy, old, black & white photograph that she sent attached to an e-mail. My response was to tell her that the photo was probably taken in Vero Beach, Florida during the early-to-mid 50’s and the three men made up the broadcasting crew for the Brooklyn Dodgers…Red Barber, Connie Desmond and a very young Vin Scully.  Growing up in Boston, I never had the chance to see Jackie Robinson and the other “Boys of Summer” play, but thanks to a wonderful new contraption called a transistor radio, the evening broadcasts of the Dodgers magically could be heard 200+ miles away in the suburbs of Boston. At the time, this young boy certainly didn’t understand the significance of Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments, especially considering the Red Sox were the last team to have a “colored” player a full 12 years after the Dodgers broke the color barrier. Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Red Sox for decades, never really addressed the issue but was quoted as saying that he didn’t have any feelings against black ballplayers himself and, in fact, employed many blacks on his estate in South Carolina. Wonder how that would play today?

 

In 2013, he movie “42” about Jackie Robinson’s journey through baseball in the 1940’s was #1 at the box office and that’s a wonderful testament to the man and his legacy. It was also great for baseball and a unique opportunity for young people to see how something historic played out on the stage of sports. Once you’ve seen the film, take the time to find “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950) and look through the prism of over 65 years as you watch Jackie portray himself in what is almost a documentary. What the movie lacks in production values, it makes up for by giving you a glimpse into the actual hero.

 

There were over 40 baseball cards of Jackie Robinson during his ten-year MLB career, but many of them are from obscure sets produced as a premium with retail products. Included in that category is a set of cards from Bond Bread in 1947 and one from Old Gold Cigarettes in 1948. For purposes of our nostalgic trek today, we’ll concentrate on the cards that were available to the general public as standard issues. The values are based on a card in “Excellent” (EX 5) condition.

 

> 1948 Leaf #79 ($5,500) – Considered by many collectors as his real rookie card, this issue is very difficult to find in decent condition. It followed Jackie’s Rookie-of-the-Year season of 1947, when he batted .297, scored 125 Runs and led the NL with 29 Stolen Bases.

 

> 1949 Bowman #50 ($1,400) – The 1948 campaign was even better for the Dodger great with a .296 BA, 108 Runs, 85 RBI’s & 22 SB’s.

 

> 1950 Bowman #22 ($750) – The 1949 season was the epitome of Robinson’s career from a purely statistical perspective. In his prime at age 30, he captured the NL MVP Award with a .342 BA, 16 HR’s, 124 RBI’s, 122 Runs & a league-leading 37 SB’s. What would you pay at your Fantasy Baseball Draft for those numbers?

 

> 1952 Topps #312 ($2,650) – This beautiful card from the iconic set is in great demand by collectors. Jackie had continued his assault on NL Pitchers with two more All-Star seasons in 1950 & ’51 hitting .328 & .338.

 

> 1953 Topps #1 ($425) – As with all early card sets, the #1 card was susceptible to damage due to rubber bands  holding collections together. This issue followed another All-Star campaign for #42 in 1952, as he led the NL with a .440 On-Base Percentage.

 

> 1954 Topps #10 ($175) – Even at age 34 in 1953, there was no hint of a decline with 95 RBI’s, 30 SB’s and a .329 BA.

 

> 1955 Topps #50 ($185) – The 1954 stats on the back of this card highlight the last All-Star caliber season of Robinson’s career, as he hit .311 with a .918 OPS despite battling some nagging injuries and being limited to 386 AB’s.

 

> 1956 Topps #30 ($135) – The final card in this classic collection, it was issued following the Dodger’s magical 1955 season when they finally beat the Yankees in a 7-game World Series and brought the championship back to Brooklyn. While Jackie’s stats were declining at age 36, he was still the emotional leader of this great team.

 

Robinson retired after the ’56 season and as was Topps policy in those days, no 1957 card was issued as he was no longer an active player. Needless to say, the accomplishments of this heroic man transcend statistics, but just to help fans understand his greatness on the field, consider the following…

 

* In his ten seasons, the Dodgers won six NL Pennants

 

* He was named to six All-Star teams

 

* Was both the Rookie-of-the-Year and a league MVP

 

* Career .311 BA, .409 OBP & .883 OPS

 

* Played 1B, 2B, 3B & OF and even one game at SS

 

* In ten seasons, had 740 Walks and only 291 Strikeouts

 

Well, it’s time to pop something in the microwave, thanks for joining me in the baseball time machine.

 

 

 

1933 Goudey Baseball Cards

'33 Berg

The Old Duck was fortunate enough to get another glimpse at baseball history this past week, as over 50 vintage baseball cards made their way across my desk. So, we’ll take a quick trip in the baseball time machine to the time of the great depression.

 

For baseball cards collectors of any age, the idea of no new cards being produced for 20 years in almost unfathomable. After all, Bowman started producing cards in 1948 while Topps entered the market in 1952 and is still the collectible of choice. Many others joined the fray in the 80’s & 90’s and it could be reasonably argued that too many cards were produced in that era. However, as we look back on the history of the hobby it becomes clear that such a gap did exist in the early 20th century.

 

In the early 1900’s, baseball cards were almost always produced as premium items that accompanied tobacco in one form or another. In fact, the famous Honus Wagner card from the T-206 set of 1910 holds its scarcity from Wagner’s rumored dislike of tobacco and his threat of legal action that caused his card to have a limited run. The final full set of baseball cards during this time was the 176-card Cracker Jack set from 1915 and it was almost two decades before baseball card collecting made a colorful comeback.

 

In 1933, the Goudey Gum Company of Boston decided to produce a 240-card set that would include all the major stars of the period. They had beautiful colors and amazing artwork including both portrait and action shots. And the good news for today’s modern collector is that the cards from this set can still be found in the marketplace. Of course, the cost will vary greatly based on condition, but you can still add baseball’s legendary names to your own collection.

 

To put the timing of the ’33 Goudeys in perspective, the country was in the throes of a terrible economic depression, FDR had just been inaugurated, Hitler was the new Chancellor of Germany and prohibition was ending. Into this setting Enos Gordon Goudey decided that pictures of ballplayers as premiums would help increase the sales of his gum products.

 

As we review some of the cards in this historic offering, the values will be based on a card in “Excellent” (EX 5) condition.

 

#19 Bill Dickey, Yankees Catcher ($375) – At age 26, he was already established as the All-Star backstop of the New Yorkers dynasty.

 

#20 Bill Terry, Giants 1B ($285) – Coming off one of his best seasons where he hit .350 with 28 HR’s & 117 RBI’s. In 1930, he had 254 Hits and batted .401.

 

#29 Jimmie Foxx, Athletics 1B ($700) – “Double X” won his second consecutive MVP in ’33 by hitting .356 with 48 HR’s & 163 RBI’s.

 

#49 Frank Frisch, Cardinals 2B ($285) – “The Fordham Flash” took over as player-manager in the 2nd half of the season and led the Redbirds to the World Series championship in ’34.

 

#53 Babe Ruth, Yankees OF ($11,500) – “The Sultan of Swat” had four cards in the set, which was the most of any player. Numbers 144, 149 & 181 have values over $5,000.

 

#92 Lou Gehrig, Yankees 1B ($4,000) – “The Iron Horse” was in his prime and had two cards in the set…#160 is similarly valued.

 

#119 Rogers Hornsby, Cardinals 2B ($350) – The legendary “Rajah” was in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career at age 37 but still hit .326 as a part-time player.

 

#127 Mel Ott, Giants 1B ($375) – Came to Major Leagues in 1926 at age 17 and was coming off a ’32 campaign where he led the NL with 38 HR’s.

 

#158 Moe Berg, Senators Catcher ($210) – One of the great “back-stories” in the history of the game, he hit only .185 as a back-up in ’33, but the following year he was part of a barnstorming all-star team that traveled to Japan. During the visit, Berg (who may have been the most intellectual player of his time, having been educated at Princeton & Columbia) took photographs and home movies of the Tokyo landscape which were later used by General Doolittle’s bombers in 1942. When his playing career ended in 1939, Moe drifted underground and became a spy for the OSS (predecessor of the CIA) in Europe during World War II. His exploits are captured in a 1994 biography titled “The Catcher Was A Spy” and the film of his life was released in the last year.

 

#211 Hack Wilson, Dodgers OF ($325) – This diminutive (5′ 6″) slugger still holds the all-time record for RBI’s in a season with 191 for the Cubs in 1930.

 

#216 Vernon Gomez, Yankees Pitcher ($275) – “Lefty” won 87 games for the Bombers from 1931-1934.

 

#220 Lefty Grove, Athletic Pitcher ($415) – A 300 game-winner in his 17-year career, he went 24-8 with 21 complete games in ’33.

 

#222 Charley Gehringer, Tigers 2B ($275) – Right in the middle of his 19-year career with the Bengals at age 30, he had over 200 hits in seven different seasons including 1933.

 

#223 Dizzy Dean, Cardinals Pitcher ($550) – One of the most colorful characters of the game, he had a short but memorable career. In ’33, he started 34 games and completed 26 of them. In addition, “Diz” also appeared 14 times in relief and had a 20-18 record while leading the NL in Strikeouts.

 

#230 Carl Hubbell, Giants Pitcher ($325) – The master of the screwball, “King Carl” won the NL MVP with a record of 23-12 and a league-leading ERA of 1.66.

 

Other Hall of Fame members in the set include  Pie Traynor, Ki-Ki Cuyler, Paul Waner, Al Simmons, Eddie Collins, Joe Cronin, Micket Cochrane, Tris Speaker, Bill Terry, Leo Durocher, Arky Vaughan and others. For boys of a certain generation, many of these names are familiar from the player discs of the All-Star Baseball board game.

 

Hope you enjoyed our nostalgic visit back to one of the great baseball card sets in history.

1941 Play Ball

'41 Reese EX

1941 holds a unique spot in the history of baseball. In addition to being the last season before World War II, it also contained two of the most famous records in the annals of the game. From May 16th to July 15th, the Yankees Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games. During the streak, “Joltin’ Joe” had 91 hits in 223 AB’s for a .409 batting average. While the streak got top billing for two months, Ted Williams of the Red Sox was destroying AL pitchers and his batting average sat at .3995 going into the last day of the campaign. Rather than sitting out and letting the stat be rounded up to .400, “The Kid” went 6-for-8 in a doubleheader to finish at .406.

 

Since 1941, no player has had a streak of more than 44 games (Pete Rose in 1978) and no hitter has finished with a batting average over .394 (Tony Gwynn in 1994).  Think of it, two records established over 75 years ago that have stood the test of time. There were also numerous great performances during 1941 that get overlooked…Dolph Camilli hit 34 HR’s with 120 RBI’s for the Dodgers and won the NL MVP and Bob Feller of the Indians winning 25 games are just two examples.

 

Everything changed for baseball players and fans on that “date which will live in infamy” in December of 1941. Major League baseball was played for the next four years but DiMaggio, Williams, Feller and many others were away defending our country and life changed for all Americans.

 

Another casualty of the war was baseball cards. In 1939, Gum Inc. debuted a new baseball product called Play Ball. The 162 set had cards that were larger and better quality than the old-time tobacco and gum cards produced earlier in the century. It also included the rookie card of Williams as well as a card of DiMaggio. In 1940, the Play Ball set increased to 240 cards and in addition to modern players, also included a “Shoeless Joe” Jackson card.

 

The 1941 version was limited to 72 players but introduced color to the card fronts. As a recent collection that came across my desk included some of these historic pieces of cardboard, let’s take a look at some of the Hall of Fame names you might recognize…values are based on cards in “EX 5” condition.

 

> #6 Carl Hubbell $140 – The master of the screwball, “King Carl” spent his entire career (1928-1943) with the Giants.

 

> #8 Mel Ott $140 – Hit 511 HR’s in 22 seasons (1926-1947) with the Giants.

 

> #13 Jimmie Foxx $210 – One of the great sluggers of the era, he won three MVP awards and hit 534 HR’s.

 

> #14 Ted Williams $775 – The greatest hitter that ever lived.

 

> #18 Hank Greenburg $200 – Helped the Tigers win two World Series and overcame significant prejudice on his way to Cooperstown.

 

> # 54 Pee Wee Reese $375 – This is the rookie card of the famous Dodger SS…it is the top RC in the set.

 

> #’s 61, 63 & 71 Vince, Dom & Joe DiMaggio $150 / $150 / $1,800 – The only time these brothers ever appeared in the same baseball card set.

 

> #70 Bill Dickey $215 – The legendary Yankee Catcher who played with Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig.

 

> #72 Lefty Gomez $250 – Won five World Series as the ace of the Yankee’s staff.

 

Fans had to wait until 1948 for the next set of baseball cards.

 

 

Holding History In Your Hands

'25 Reach #2

If you are a real baseball fan, how often do you come across a collectible, artifact or story that surprises you? Over the last dozen years, my experiences have brought a number of these surprises. From 100 year-old baseball cards in a frame on someone’s wall to an autographed photo of a Hall of Fame player who passed away in 1948 (Hack Wilson) to a Mickey Mantle autographed newspaper advertisement for a vacuum bottle. Now, another surprise has come my way.

 

A recent collection included the 1925 version of the Reach Baseball Guide. For the cost of 35 cents, a fan received over 500 pages of information including editorial comment, statistical records, vintage photos and even a minor league review. Haven’t you always been curious about the 1924 pennant race in the Class D Blue Ridge League? The flag was captured on the last day of the season by the Martinsburg (WV) Blue Sox. Reggie Rawlings was their star player with 21 HR’s and a .379 BA.

 

A.J. Reach & Co. was the largest manufacturer of sporting goods in the country from the late 1800’s through the 1920’s. Al Reach was the founder of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise and his company manufactured numerous sporting goods products. In the pages of the 1925 guide, you’ll find ads promoting baseballs (the official American League ball), baseball mitts (gloves), soccer balls, basketballs, football helmets, golf equipment, tennis rackets and more. In 1934, Reach sold all of its rights and products to its chief rival, Spalding, and the name disappeared from the baseball landscape.

 

Part I of the guide reviews the 1924 pennant races and the World Series where the Washington Senators defeated the New York Giants in 7 games. Walter Johnson (the AL MVP) pitched the last four innings for the win in a 12-inning nail-biter.

 

Part II includes a review of the post-season Giants – White Sox European Tour. The details seem to indicate that it was less than successful due to lack of knowledge by potential fans and the inclement weather in October & November. Games were played in Liverpool, Dublin, London & Paris. Certainly a curiosity in baseball history.

 

Part III covers statistical information for the 1924 season…the AL list shows Babe Ruth leading the league with a .378 BA and 46 HR’s. Interestingly, RBI’s aren’t included on the page.

 

Part IV reviews the ’24 World Series in minute detail while Part V includes record setting accomplishments. Then Part VI spends over sixty pages on the minor leagues.

 

Part VII is primarily about the business of baseball reviewing annual meetings of each league and a preview of the 1925 schedule.

 

Photos include Ban Johnson (AL President), Kenesaw M. Landis (Commissioner), Babe Ruth, John A. Heydler (NL President), Rogers Hornsby (led the NL with a .424 BA), Dazzy Vance (NL MVP) and group shots of every team.

 

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also an addendum with the “Official 1925 Code of Playing Rules for Playing Baseball”. Rule 18 says that players in uniform shall not be permitted to occupy seats in the stands, or to mingle with the spectators.

 

Gotta love these trips in the baseball time machine.

The Heritage Of Topps

 

'19 Lindor Heritage

Everyone you know probably considers themselves an expert at something, but Fantasy Baseball players are at the top of the food chain. Even though we play the game for money and bragging rights, the real truth is that we actually think we’re smarter than MLB GM’s & Managers. After all, would Dan Straily be in your rotation? Or would Hunter Strickland be your Closer? Or would you have Hanley Ramirez as your DH when you’re a contending team? Or would you pay Yasmany Tomas over $10 Million to play in Reno? Or would you keep hoping that Matt Duffy will be healthy? The Old Duck participates in a 15-team Fantasy Baseball “experts” league where it is abundantly clear that each owner considers himself to be smarter than the other 14, but none of them would make those moves. It isn’t arrogance, only knowledge gained from experience.

 

Avid baseball card collectors are no different in their approach to the hobby. After watching card manufacturers flail away at each other in the 80’s and overproduce products in the 90’s to the detriment of the industry, it’s easy to criticize almost any product offering. Card enthusiasts are quick to complain about too few autograph cards, but also aren’t happy when the autographs are on stickers applied to the cards because they want the authenticity of “on-card” signatures. They also don’t like redemption cards (when players have not yet had the opportunity to sign), but also whine when the better players aren’t included in a product. It is the nature of the consumer to always want more for less and consider themselves smarter than the folks in charge.

 

In an attempt to remove myself from this category (even temporarily), I’m willing to admit that the people at The Topps Company are brilliant!

 

In 2001, Topps was celebrating the 50th anniversary of their entry into the baseball card business. They utilized the framework of their historical 1952 set to develop a new product. Topps Heritage came into the marketplace with current players pictured on cards that had the format of the iconic 1952 set. The detail of the set and the photography took collectors back to the time when packs were a nickel and included a stick of gum. The set was designed for card enthusiasts to build it completely by opening packs and sorting through the cards. It even had some of the quirks of the original like short-printed cards, checklist cards and even bubble gum…even though the gum was enclosed in a plastic wrapper. To all of this, Topps also added some autograph & relic cards to make the set even more attractive. The real draw, however, was the 1952 look and the opportunity for kids of the 50’s to build a new set of cards for the 2000’s.

 

Topps Heritage has been a consistent top-selling product at a mid-range price (around $3+ per pack) ever since. Each year, the cards mirror the old design of the appropriate Topps set with new players and this year’s release (which just hit stores last month), uses the 1970 card as its platform. If you collected cards in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, this is the product for you.

 

In the last few years, Topps has added a few more twists with short printed cards that have variations of throwback uniforms or an action image. They even tugged at old-timers’ heartstrings by randomly adding a section of white on some of the card backs emulating how they would have looked had a dusty piece of gum been sitting against the card…very cool!

 

The Old Duck purchases a few boxes each year and builds the set from scratch. Of course, you never really know what might appear inside the packs and the first box this year yielded a Shohei Ohtani “Action Shortprint” and a Francisco Lindor Game-Used Memorabilia card.

 

In honor of this year’s release, let’s look back at that beautiful 1970 set of 720 cards, which includes over 25 Hall of Famers. The card values are based on “Near Mint” (NM 7) condition.

 

> #140 Reggie Jackson, $45 – The 2nd year card of Mr. October.

 

> #189 Thurman Munson, $80 – The rookie card of the Yankee legend.

 

> #350 Roberto Clemente, $55 – Even 15 years into his career, this all-time great is in demand.

 

> #500 Hank Aaron , $55 – Still in his prime…hit 44 HR’s in ’69.

 

> #580 Pete Rose, $60 – Charlie Hustle led the NL in ’69 with a .348 BA.

 

> #600 Willie Mays, $60 – The Say Key Kid was 39 but still managed to hit 28 HR’s for the Giants in ’70.

 

> #660 Johnny Bench, $75 – The heart of the Big Red Machine, this was his 3rd year card.

 

> #712 Nolan Ryan, $150 – The high number run is slightly scarcer and the Express is highly coveted in nice condition.

 

 

In addition to these big tickets items, you’ll also find Ted Williams (as a Manager), Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson and the only team card of the Seattle Pilots.

 

The “Heritage” will continue next year with memories of the 1971 set…