Saturday, September 17, 2022

Finigan Begin Again

For some bizarre reason, I've never really put together the fact that the two 110 card first series slits are known for 1955 Topps Baseball Topps had some interesting things occurring on their press sheets from the inaugural 1952 Baseball set on and things just got weirder each year.  

1952 saw three double-printed high numbers, presumably due to Topps running out of viable players. By the time 1953 rolled around, Topps  had already been in court several times with Bowman (and possibly other companies) and they hedged their bets a little, leaving a five number "punctuated equlibrium" gap as each series went on, backfilling subjects once their contract status was deemed airtight enough, although they got tripped up in the end, with a total of six numbers never being issued.  

1954 saw some interesting gaps and a move to 110 card half sheets (which, forgetting Ferris Bueller's sage advice, I only realized about a month ago, thinking they were 100 card arrays per side for a very long and embarrasing time).  The problem with 1954 is I do not know more than one slit, which had a gap where cards #151-175 did not make the slit.  Although I based that on the idea the known slit was arrayed 10x10 and not 11x 10 I think that gap still holds up. I think Topps did this because the set size went down to 250 cards and, while a plan to keep gaps makes sense, they seemingly had a good enough grip on their players that year it wasn't required.  So the trend was downward on set counts: 407, 274, 250. 

Then we hit the planned 210 card 1955 set, a nadir for sure as Topps went below the Bowman set count for the first time since their direct competition started in '52. Bowman went big of course, issuing 320 cards and going out, on the baseball front at least, in a blaze of glory before their president, John Connelly, decided he wanted nicer things to play with.

As well all know, the 1955 Topps set lost four subjects in the high numbers, possibly printed but either way pulled and never to be identified, landing at a final count of 206 and making me think Mr. Connelly was still contemplating his next moves, which I don't think even he fully knew until the 1955 Bowman Football set got bum rushed by Topps. Here are the two "first series" slits and you will soon realize why I used quotation marks.

Here is the first slit, I think it's the "A" slit but but am not positive as there are no markings:

At least one other sheet with this array is known.  The other slit, let's call it "B" but also the "double Spahn" for what will be obvious reasons:

That was posted over at Net54 not too long ago.  It looks so clean I thought it could be a digital recereation (and it very well may be) but this extremely old REA lot shows what I believe is the same sheet, as you can clearly see two Spahns stacked up in the lower right, even with the grainy shot (it was their June 25, 1993 auction).  While it's likely enhanced by whoever shot the original, the Aaron to the right of Spahn and Ted William in the lower right corner of the REA sheet nicely confirms this sheet array is legit:

Also of interest, the backs on the LOTG sheet are misligned!  At a guess, knowing that Topps printed the backs first, the  Love of the Game sheet was likely a test for the obverse colors. Ordinarily, I'd say there's a chance the double Spahn sheet array was altered prior to final printing but a miscut card of ol' Warren, as noted in the Net54 thread, proves otherwise:

The proof is on the reverse, as the miscut stat line is clearly Spahn's:

In the thread on Net54, it's also noted a "double" miscut Hodges exists!  He's #187 in the set as a high number, so Topps was clearly doing it on purpose (more below on this). Now, let's count together, from most to least:

70           ROSEN

14           FINIGAN             
23           PARKS  
29           WEHMEIER        
31           SPAHN 
58           RIVERA
59           ALLIE    
61           JACOBS
62           KIPPER 
67           MOON 
80           GRIM   
81           CONLEY 
84           PASCUAL            
86           WILSON               

2             WILLIAMS           
3             FOWLER               
7             HEGAN 
8             SMITH   
10           KEEGAN               
16           SIEVERS 
18           KEMMERER        
19           HERMAN             
24           NEWHOUSER     
26           GROAT 
30           POWER 
32           McGHEE               
33           QUALTERS           
34           TERWILLIGER     
36           KIELY     
39           GLYNN  
45           SAUER  
49           PORTER 
57           O'DELL  
63           COLLINS               
64           TRIANDOS           
66           JACKSON             
72           OLSON  
77           PORTOCARRERO              
78           JONES   
82           HARMON            
83           BREWER               
89           FRAZIER               
100         IRVIN    
106         SULLIVAN           

5            GILLIAM            
11           FAIN      
13           MARSH 
20           CAREY   
25           PODRES               
40           HOAK    
41           STOBBS 
47           AARON 
50           ROBINSON          
54           LIMMER               
55           REPULSKI             
74           BORKOWSKI       
90           SPOONER            
103         WHITE   
105         DIERING               

1             RHODES               
4             KALINE 
6             HACK     
9             MILLER 
12           THEIS     
17           HOFMAN             
21           GRAMMAS         
22           SKOWRON          
27           GRADNER            
28           BANKS  
37           CUNNINGHAM 
38           TURLEY 
42           McCALL 
43           HADDIX 
44           VALENTINE         
46           KAZANSKI           
48           KENENDY             
52           TREMEL                
53           TAYLOR 
56           JABLONSKI          
60           STONE  
65           BOONE 
68           DAVIS   
69           BAILEY  
71           GOMEZ 
73           SHEPARD             
76           POLLET 
79           SCHELL  
85           MOSSI  
87           HOUSE  
88           SKINNER              
102         WESTLAKE           
104         HARSHMAN       
107         ROBERTS              
108         WALKER               

15           PENDLETON       
35           JOLLY     
51           HUGHES               
75           AMOROS            
91           BOLLING              
92           ZIMMER               
93           BILKO    
94           BERTOIA              
95           WARD   
96           BISHOP 
97           PAULA  
98           RIDDLE  
99           LEJA       
110         ZERNIAL               

It looks like Topps plugged in both the puncuated equilibrium and consecutive number gap processes at the same time in 1955! Nos. 15, 35, 51, 75 and 110 from the former method and nos. 90-99 using the latter, with 14 "no prints' resulting.  There's a lot of single prints and even a 5x player in Al Rosen, so clearly whatever the next "series" was should have included these, perhaps leaving some gaps they hoped to fill in, until the last series came and they were bereft of any further subjects, leaving 175, 186, 203 and 209 to never see the light of day. Presumably some of the 2x prints were trued up a bit as well but that's not a guarantee. Given the "divide by 5" look to the tranches (and Rosen plus the zeroes add to 15) it looks pretty well planned out to me, even though the arrays are all over the place. Just look how parts of a couple columns repeat elsewhere, the random placements like Spahn and the plethora of single prints.

APOLOGIES: There is some kind of weird formatting problem going on with this post.  Please see the continuation of it here.

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