Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

 Read to the end for a Christmas surprise!  But first...

And last but certainly not least, a tip o' the Santa hat to Jason Rhodes, who alerted me to this stellar image of Santa's Fun Pack from 1950, which was discussed not too long ago:

(copyright Christopher Benjamin & Dennis W. Eckes, 
Sport-Americana Price Guide to the Non-Sports Cards 1930-1960, Edgewater Book Co., 1991)

The "surprises" are just the novelties (inserts) included with each pack but I am wonderng if the Fruit flavor Gum tab had something like a "Topps Daffy-nition" on its wrapper interior as I don't believe they came with anything like a comic insert. Questions, questions....which will keep us busy in to 2022 and beyond!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Appreciation Sensation

Yes, I am a day early for some but I come bearing a Christmas Eve gift!

Here's a bit of an oddity, a greeting from the distant past ( 1945 to be exact) although it's essentially an announcement introducing Warren's Gum, a five cent line of Clorets-style candy shell coated chews. I don't have a scan of the actual front so I subbed in the back as it kind of makes sense to do so! I'm not sure if this was originally meant as a holiday greeting or not but the color scheme suggests it could have been and it would have been prepared after the end of the hostilities with Japan, so close enough.

The mistletoe and holly are upon us, so I'm going to just let this speak for itself.  I'll have a little "present" tomorrow for you all as well, on our normal posting day.  May your holiday be bright!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Purple People Sheeters

A few weeks ago I posted some Topps Football Salesman Samples and a comment thereon marveled at the 1963 example shown, which had a purple background variation along with two "normal" blue backgrounds.  I don't collect the 1963 Football set and am unfamiliar with the variations for the most part, so I thought I'd try to gather what information I could find about the them and the set itself here in a simple, easy (LOL) to read post.  To refresh your memory (and mine) this was the '63 sample:

Blue, blue, purple-easy enough, right?  Well, not exactly....especially after reading this ur-variation article: click over for a well researched piece.  It's from an older, albeit oft-linked site and it notes the lesser known green background variants as well.

I've nicked the above scan from the linked site ( or "rb" merely for reference purposes but you can see purple on the left-most card and (over-saturated) green on the right-most in the Nomellini card backgrounds.  The green variations seem to have been done to correct for very drab looking grass and trees in many cases. The salesmen sample I showed in my original post and above is also referenced over at "rb" so it's been known for a while (2014 at least).  This is all starting to remind me of the 1962 Baseball green tint variations!

PSA has a nice article on the set as well and notes the 116 purple background varieties, although I think "rb" has 115.  I am not sure if all the green variations have been counted anywhere but there are a fair number of them. Neither color variant seems to follow the Topps "rule of 11" and as "rb" notes, they were changed at the lithographic level.

The set is 170 cards in length, which is an odd total in Topps-land and Mike Thomas's Vintage Football Card Gallery has a nice "reconstruction" project covering the sheet arrays.  Here is sheet #1 via Mr. Thomas, which is reproduced from an actual half sheet that doesn't display too well:

Here is Mike's second sheet reconstruction; what a wonderfully colorful set, especially in uncut form:


I'll get into the print arrays momentarily but first here is a nice Cardboard Connection capsule summary of the set.  The first sheet is quite interesting to me; it shows how Topps was locked into a format of 11 players and a team card per franchise, so adding additional subjects to bring the total to a more "elegant" and somewhat normal 176 (ideally 98 cards on one sheet plus next series checklist + 76 cards on the second with a DP checklist) could not have been done unless they broke the pattern (or issued non-single player cards like they did with Baseball for several years). Topps was team-centric in football for many years prior, perhaps due to the nature of its deal with the NFL. Here is the array for the first sheet which is easy to digest, as each row, excepting rows 3 and 4, contains all 11 player cards of a specific team:

1 Eagles
2 Steelers
3 Team Cards
4 Team Cards-Checklists
5 49'ers
6 Colts
7 Vikings
8 Packers
9 Rams 
10 Lions
11 Bears
12 Cardinals

You will see both checklists (nos. 85 & 170) appear twice in the fourth row.  In addition, the team cards of the Rams (#48), Giants (#60), Packers (#97) and Vikings (#109) repeat from the third row as well.  The ten other team cards appear only once between both rows so we get a first sheet count of: 

110 Players
  10 Single Print Team Cards
    8 Double Print Team Cards
    4 Checklist Cards
132 Cards

The second sheet has the following row array:

1 49'ers
2 Colts
3 Vikings
4 Packers
5 Rams 
6 Lions
7 Bears
8 Cardinals
9 Giants
10 Cowboys
11 Redskins
12 Browns

The last first two rows for the first sheet and the last four rows of the second contain the single printed cards.  Adding in the ten single printed team cards there are 76 short prints in the set.  If issued in two waves then I tend to think there were two identical half sheets made up for each.  If released all at once, each half sheet may just have been different from the other.

It's worth noting the season-long suspensions of Alex Karras and Paul Horning on April 17, 1963 for gambling at this point in the discussion.  The Lions cards ran from #25-35 with the team card clocking in at #36.  Karras, however, was not a guaranteed appearance in a Topps NFL set at the time.  He was not in their 1960 set after his cardboard debut a year prior and even star defensive players often got left out of the shorter Topps sets.  While he made it in 1961 and 1962, Topps lost the NFL contract to Philadephia Gum in 1964 but Karras doesn't appear in any of their sets either until 1966 and then is a miss in 1967.  He then re-appears in 1968 with Topps.  So he's in no mainstream sets from 1963-65 and therefore may not have been in the plans for Topps in 1963. 

Hornung on the other hand, was a star offensive player (one of the biggest) and it's interesting to me that card #85, which theoretically would have kicked off the Packers numbering run, instead was assigned to the first checklist card. 

So my question is this: were the Packers supposed to have Paul Hornung included? Furthermore, was "series 1" supposed to end at #84, preserving the 11 player + "following" team card formula, where the team card was always divible by 12?  We'll never know but it certainly seems possible.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Phantoms Of The Parks

I'm going to do something a little different today, which is present in full a nearly 40 year old story from the January 1982 issue of Baseball Hobby News that tells the story of Richard Gelman's "find" of 29 original Bowman art pieces from 1952. Original Bowman art is always notable but these illustrations included 15 players who did not appear in the issued set and a changed team for Willard Ramsdell, who was traded from the Reds to the Cubs for Frank Hiller on January 3rd in the first deal of the year.  

Here is ol' Willard from the 1952 Bowman set:

Note the mention of the trade on the reverse:

You will see in the BHN article below that the original artwork for Ramsdell has Cincinnati on his uniform, so it was changed to Chicago in pre-production. I haven't been able to find an image of the Cincinnati version of the painting, if there even is one, but did find the photo it was copied from:

Given the 414 Ft. sign, towering apartment buildings in the background and a NYC photographer it's pretty easy to surmise that shot was taken in the Polo Grounds. Ramsdell was traded by the Dodgers on May 10, 1950 to the Reds, so the photo is probably either from before then or was snapped sometime in 1951. Either way, here is the skinny from four decades ago:


Saturday, December 4, 2021

Splendid Swat

Well more deep diving into my stash of old hobby publication tearsheets has yielded a couple of sets I had long forgotten about.  In fact, they showcase two of the biggest superstars the game ever had.  Yup, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams both got a short and odd treatment from Topps in the 1990's.

"Babe Ruth" was broadcast by NBC TV on October 6, 1991, which was a couple of days before the MLB Playoffs began.  Babe Ruth the card set was produced by Topps for the producer of the movie, Lawrence Lyttle and it seems only 500 sets were printed.  The 11 card set mostly features actors, as one would expect, but there are two noteworthy exceptions.  Pete Rose, two years on from the lifetime ban that derailed his surefire first ballot HOF election, played Ty Cobb:

Ironically, Cobb and Tris Speaker (both of whom are certainly in the Hall of Fame) each ended up as teammates on the Philadelphia Athletics in 1928 as a result of a game they had bet on toward the end of the 1919 regular season. Dutch Leonard and Smokey Joe Wood were also in on the action but they had already left the majors by the time the matter came to light in 1926.  American League President Ban Johnson and Tigers owner Frank Navin paid off Leonard, who had damning correspondence implicating all four players, in what sounds like a successful blackmail scheme.  

The Commissioner's Office was duly informed toward the end of 1926 and the two players were forced to resign (Cobb as Tigers player-manager with Speaker in the same role for Cleveland).  The scandal was not exactly squashed but it was certainly covered up by Landis, Johnson and Navin.  Cobb and Speaker were both released as well, with Ty going to play for Connie Mack in 1927 while Speaker ended up with the Senators before joining the Athletics for 1928, which was the last active season for both men. Inspired casting, I say!

The set however, does include a Hall of Famer in Rod Carew, who served as the hitting consultant for the movie.

As his write-up noted, Stephen Lang played the Babe:

Topps would do things like this on occasion and such sets would have been used as part of a promotional package or even as a thank you to certain people involved with the making of the movie.  The checklist is like so:

1. Babe Ruth - Sunday, October 6th-NBC

2. Stephen Lang as Babe Ruth

3. Bruce Weitz as Miller Huggins

4. Lisa Zane as Claire Ruth

5. Donald Moffat as Jacob Ruppert

6. Neil NcDonough as Lou Gehrig

7. Pete Rose as Ty Cobb

8. Rod Carew-Baseball Consultant

9. Ruth and Mgr. Huggins

10. Ruth in Action

11 Babe Calls His Shot

Topps got to use their "40 Years of Baseball" logo and the set looks pretty sharp!

As for Ted Williams, when I said short and odd at the beginning of this post, I meant it.  On December 15, 1995, at the dedication of the Ted Williams Tunnel, which connects Logan Airport to the city of Boston (and was part of the infamous "Big Dig"). Williams had been driven through the tunnel as part of the opening ceremonies by the governor of Massachusetts and once they arrived at Fenway Park an invitation-only luncheon was held.  Attendees received a 13 card set sponsored by Boston Sand & Gravel Company as a favor, which featured 12 cards produced by Choice Marketing but also sported a single card made by Topps.

And what a card it was:

Naturally, it was card #9, although I believe it was used as the "header" for the set:

It's reported 3,000 sets were produced and the Williams is definitely easier to find than the cards from the Babe Ruth set. (UPDATE December 9, 2021: Keith Olbermann advises far more than 500 Babe Ruth sets were printed up, likely several thousand).