Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Mark Of Zorro

Wow, it's been close to a year since I visited the 1960 Venezuelan Baseball Tattoo issue.  When last remarked upon here, the set was holding fast at nineteen confirmed subjects.  Well late last year Friend o'the Archive and intrepid collector of these rare and delicate items, Rick Lyons, sent along a miscut image of Luis Arroyo, which holds a distinct clue to a twentieth subject.  Take a look at this Luis Arroyo tattoo:

That little sliver of a letter off to the left is a Z, which immediately brings to mind Zoilo Versalles, the eventual 1965 American League MVP. Like several other players in the set, Versalles was Cuban-born and, if confirmed, would continue the perplexing string of non-Venezuelan born players in the set. It's a pretty good bet that's him though.

Nicknamed "Zorro," Versalles does not appear in the 1960 Baseball Tattoo U.S. set.  He debuted for Washington in 1959, after a brief, U.S.-based minor league career, which had followed a pair of top-flight amateur seasons as a teenager in Havana and some extremely brief pro appearances in the Cuban Winter League. He didn't earn a regular berth with the club (now the Minnesota Twins) until the 1961 American League expansion and, save for 1965, had a fairly pedestrian career in the big leagues. He did, however, have a monster season in the CWL in 1960, the last season for that league before it was shut down by the Castro government.

Let's add him to our running list of subjects as a hypothetical:

Bob Allison
Ruben Amaro (Venezuelan only)
Luis Arroyo (Venezuelan only)
Bob Clemente (Venezuelan only)
Rocky Colavito
Don Drysdale
Nellie Fox
Tony Gonzales (Venezuelan only)
Dick Groat
Harmon Killebrew
Frank Lary
Juan Marichal  (Venezuelan only)
Ed Mathews
Stan Musial
Juan Pizzaro (Venezuelan only)
Vic Power (Venezuelan only)
Pedro Ramos (Venezuelan only)
Zoilo Versalles (Venezuelan only) inferred not yet confirmed
Gene Woodling
Early Wynn

A little bit after Rick sent along that scan, Lonnie Cummins, who is doing some heavy-lifting with his Topps research, figured out that the tattoos done in this style, namely the North American penny wraps with an interior image printed in vegetable dye, were designed and produced in iterations divisible by 8, which points to possible minimum tattoo total of 24, leaving our current surmised total of 20 a little short still. That denominator has been suggested for a while now but Lonnie's pretty much nailed it down with some recent findings about how the 1960 Baseball and Superman Tattoos were printed in the U.S. of  A.

With that, it seems at least four more subjects could and should be found, although given the scarcity of these, it's a bit of a tall order to think they will show up any time soon. Still, this is a set where the checklist was at one subject not all that long ago, then two more were found, before the revelations of the past couple of years came to light. Maybe one or two of those will actually be a Venezuelan player; certainly Luis Aparicio comes to mind as a likely subject from the country. 

However, it appears there needs to be a 1960 intersection with the major leagues to qualify as a subject (which makes sense with the art being provided by Topps) and the only other Venezuelan players to meet that criteria are Ramon (Ray) Monzant and Elio Chacon. Monzant appeared in a single game for the Giants in the latter stages of the 1960 season (after missing the 1959 season due to injury) and then disappeared from MLB (and organized ball) forever.  Chacon seems a far better possibility as he debuted in '60 and appeared in 49 games for the Reds, which was after four seasons with Havana. Are Aparicio and Chacon out there along with two other subjects?  

No comments: