Saturday, February 10, 2024

Letters To Sy Over

I've recently been resuscitating a CD-R that was sent to me some time ago with thousands of scans covering Topps Vault items sold by them from 2007 to mid-2013 on eBay. Some of the files are corrupted at this point but I've managed to save about 70 percent of them. However, I cannot trace who sent me this wonderful time capsule so please ping me if it was you!

Some of the most esoteric items on the disc were letters sent to Sy Berger from 1993-95 thanking him for the $500 payments that secured each player's signed release for the Topps Archives (yessir) Official Reprint sets from 1994 and 1995, reprinting the originals from 40 years prior in each case.  There's nothing earth-shattering here but the letters are all handwritten and highlight some long-lasting friendships that Sy had formed over the many decades he was the Sports Director at Topps.

Here's one from Andy Pafko dated March 28, 1994, referencing the 1994 Official Reprint of the 1954 Baseball set:

Pafko would receive another $500 a year later for the 1955 Official Reprint set:

Don Mueller, who was nicknamed Mandrake the Magician for his uncanny ability to slap balls through the infield, sent this note on some really neat "Almost Original 16" stationery, which he must have saved from his playing days (did all ballplayers of a certain vintage get pads of these?).  The inclusion of the logos for the Orioles (the relocated Browns from 1954) and old Athletics elephant (the style shown here debuted for the 1954 season during their last year in Philadelphia) logos may point to 1954 for the stationery, kind of ties things together nicely!.

Ned Garver had some really sweet professionally designed stationery too:

Garver was handing over his check to a group founded by ex-Brown Chuck Stevens, who was the Secretary of the Association of Professional Ball Players of America (APBPA) from 1960 until 1998. APBPA offered financial and other assistance to down-on-their-luck ex-ballplayers. Stevens lived a long life and was the oldest living ex-major league player until his death on May 28, 2018.

Gene Woodling wrote Sy in 1995 and intimates there were some freebie boxes going to the players:

We'll end this fun look at old stationery with Phil Cavarretta, writing on his wife's:

These half-dozen notes really showed the human side of these five ex-players and how people from one rare profession really form bonds like those from any other profession.

And if you are doing the math, and assuming everybody got the same amount, then Topps had to pay out $124,500 for rights to the original subjects for the 1954 reprint (for 249 subjects as neither Ted Williams card was included thanks to his exclusive deal with Upper Deck at the time, and assuming the O'Brien's received $500 per O'Brien) and $103,000 for the original 1955 subjects rights.  1954 also saw  eight additional (and quite) crummy fantasy "rookie cards" Topps added to the mix for no good reason at all, so you can tack on $4K for those.

The Williams cards from 1954 could eventually be found in reprint form from both Upper Deck and Topps. Upper Deck, through some creative licensing arrangements, in their strangely titled but wonderfully executed three-card 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes - 1994 Topps Archives 1954 set gave the world both reprinted Williams cards plus a fab ersatz Mantle.  I never copped a Mick, so forgive the scans here:

However I do have Williams reprints, but only one is from Upper Deck.  The other is from the 2001 Topps Archives set (nice ring to that!).  Let's go in reverse order, Upper Deck first for #250 and embiggened to show details:

Here's some mixed-up indicia for ya: 

Note the obverse follows the Topps reprint set as it carries a top border.  The 2001 Archives Ted Williams "Through the Years" cards on the other hand, did give us the original full-bleed top borders:

Looks a lot better, right?  However, Topps didn't use glossy white stock for the reverse and the result was decidedly murky:

So my 1954 Topps reprint set is a real Franken-set!  

1 comment:

John Bateman said...

Letters are great - a real piece of continued history of Topps - especially Pafko (whose handwriting was easy to read).

Time Flies - hard to believe to believe we are at the 30 year mark of the 1994 (1954) archives set. I thought we were going to get a few more of those sets up until the 1960s.