Monday, September 25, 2017

TCMA Stars of the 60s



After picking up the TCMA Stars of the 50s set I let the other shoe drop and found their Stars of the 60s follow-up. At least I found Series I. Turns out TCMA issued a Series II a few years later, in 1981. I didn't know that until last night when I was digging for info on this thing.

There obviously isn't as much research on this as there is about mainstream Topps sets. There were 291 cards in this Series I. They are numbered to 293 but a couple of numbers were not issued. Even the number of un-issued cards is a matter of where you check. But I'm not worried about that. For now let's just look at a cross section of the cards.

That, of course, is Albie Pearson up top. I ought to start a PC of the guy since I've got so many of his cards. As I've mentioned before his 1960 card was the first I can recall pulling from packs as a kid.


This Ernie Banks is a nicer photo than the one he got in the 50s Stars version of this thing. I'm guessing Shea Stadium but it may not be. I need Joe Shlabotnik to weigh in here. 

On the whole the pix in this set are better than those in the Stars of the 50s version. Brighter, sharper, more focused images for sure. Cameras improved over time so that probably is to be expected. But more than that it looked to me that TCMA made a concerted effort to improve the printing and/or processing of the photos. 


Jesse Gonder is one of several player who have two cards. He's here as a Brave and as a Met. Let's give TCMA credit for not using the same blurb on the back of both cards.


And speaking of backs....


Here are the backs of a couple of cards and you'll notice the obvious differences. In the set I picked up all of the first 45 or so cards have backs printed with black ink with the set name in large all caps. The rest use green and some don't have the set label at all. I've also seen some of the low numbers printed in green. It makes me wonder if the black ink ones I received were a part of the TCMA 'team' sets of the era.

But either way the bottom line is that there are two back colors and three 'styles'.


I have a soft spot for Chuck Hinton. Back when I was heavily into Strat-O-Matic table baseball he always seemed to outperform his Strat card. Since the Nats and Indians were always a part of my league I saw a lot of him. He has two cards in the set and I scanned his Cleveland card for inclusion later.


Tito Francona is another duel card guy. His two show similar poses. And yes, every card in this set, like the previous one, has all posed photos.


Ron Brand is wearing the seldom seen Astros spring training cap they used the year they changed from being the Colts to the Astros and moved into the Dome. I've seen pics of them wearing this thing as they worked out in the Dome in the days leading up to the first Astros Opening Day.


Johnny Callison is a favorite of mine. Stems from my time as a Phils fan, circa 1963/64. "My" NL team changed pretty regularly.


Above and below are cards that show off the wonderful green/yellow A's unis of the era. I don't think I was a fan back than but these have really grown on me over time. I hadn't reall thought about it previously but are the A's the only team to wear numbers on both sleeves? The Tigers and White Sox usually wore numbers on their right sleeve. Anyway the Athletics have front and back numbers and both sleeves covered. Is that a baseball record?

That's The Hawk of course above and Bobby Del Greco below.




Smoky Burgess showing sleeve and front of jersey numbers. Add the one on the back and you get three. Be honest...you didn't know his first name was "Forrest" did you?



The Mick, Yankee Stadium. All business.



Norm Siebern of the Orioles. I remember my uncle in Baltimore telling me that this Boog Powell kid was going to push Siebern off the O's. He was right.



Leon 'Daddy Wags' Wagner. Too cool for words. And he f'ing knew it.



Donn Clendenon is wearing what we always referred to as a 'patch hat'. We were always baffled by the fact that the Pirates had the same crappy type of cheap looking caps that we got on cap day at Yankee and Shea Stadiums.


On September 1, 1964, pitcher Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to play in the major leagues. I remember what a huge deal that was. My best friend and his dad were big Giants guys so we talked about them a lot.

 Gerry Arrigo on one of the very few horizontal cards in Series I of this set. I looked thru online photos of Series II and there are many more of these as well as some of the group shots that we saw in the Stars of the 50s set.


And finally here is the great Bob Gibson. I'm usually a sucker for nostalgic touches like the dark Cards cap he's wearing. Not in this case. The Cards look much better wearing red ones.

I'm going to save the rest of my scans for a second post of these. By the way..if you are interested in picking up this or the earlier set I'd advise not jumping on the first listing you see. The prices on these things are as varied as anything I've come across. I see them with an asking price of over $100. And I see them for as little as $25. I paid under $30 shipped. Do your homework.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

1979 TCMA Stars of the 50s

This 291 (293 with variations) card set is one of two large sets produced by TCMA in the late 70s following the lawsuit by Topps arising from the SSPC set of 1975/76. That action effectively killed TCMA's efforts at using current players and pushed them towards making sets of retired major leaguers and a myriad of minor league sets. 

Actually TCMA produced dozens of sets around that time and later but this one, 'Stars of the Fifties' and it's companion, 'Stars of the Sixties' are by far the biggest. I picked up both of them recently. They are a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to putting them in pages. The quality of the photos varies greatly but you can't help but appreciate the simple beauty of them. 

I've scanned a bunch and will post these few and some random thoughts.


Every card in the set features a posed photo. The Ted Kluszewski card is typical. there are lots of spring training shots sprinkled throughout the set. Big Klu's card is one of the better ones, bright and clear.


I don't recall seeing a card with a pic of a player tying his shoe as Robin Roberts is doing here. You wonder if the photographer just happened to come upon him down on one knee, called his name and took the picture or had him pose like this.


Elston Howard is a fake catching pose somewhere in Florida. Probably Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg. i need to get a dupe of this so I'll have one in my ever expanding Ellie Howard PC.


Some of the cards suffer from photos that seemed to be over-exposed. They are a bit washed out in appearance. Ernie Banks' card is one of those.


Bob Purkey wearing the ultimate spring training attire, a rubber windbreaker style jacket under a jersey.  Sweating off those winter pounds.


Harvey Haddix isn't looking sad because he lost a perfect game in the 13th. He's looking sad because he ALWAYS looked sad. 


Alvin Dark of the Giants. If you're getting the feeling that there are a lot of NY area players in this set you're not alone. I'll have to do a tally once I page this thing. It's a neat card isn't it?


Roberto Clemente....he always looks so damn regal doesn't he? Willie Mays is probably the best all-around player I've ever seen but I could make a pretty good case for Clemente as well.


This Billy Pierce shot has been used on at least a half dozen other oddballs. And usually it's much clearer.


In contrast to the Pierce card Sam Jethroe's card is cardboard art. 


Snider, Hodges, Campy, Furillo grace one of the few group photos. The other one I saw while flipping through the box was one of Dodger pitchers.


The Original Frank Thomas wearing a flocked Pirates helmet. MLB had brought back the matte finish helmets, can the flocked ones be far behind?


Even as a young player Spahnnie had that 'Spahn look'!


Roy Campanella looks like a high school kid here. I had to flip the card over to be sure it was him.


Willie's card is among the top five or so in the set as far as I'm concerned. Nice to see a photo that isn't overused. This reminds me of the pics in the old Sport magazines of the day.


Don Hoak in a classic baseball pose from the 50s. What a great card!


Leo Durocher hitting infield. I wonder how many infield grounders he hit during his lifetime?


Stan Lopata. Yes, he always crouched like that. He didn't always wear the shades but he did for this shot.

Sal Maglie. From 1950 thru 1952 he went 59-18 for the Giants with 46 complete games in 83 starts. He had a WHIP of 1.21 and an ERA of 2.83 That's impressive stuff. He's also one of the few guys who played for the three old school New York teams. He's also the answer to a tough trivia question: "Who was the losing pitcher in Don Larson's perfect game World Series win?"



Jimmy Piersall won two Gold Gloves. That's impressive given the quality of the outfielders during his time. Neat card, too.


Al Kaline, native son of Baltimore, looking about 18 here. That's Yankee Stadium.


Figured I'd throw out a peek at a card back. Vitals, blurb, lifetime stats.


Vic Power. One of the great names in the game during the 50s/60s.


Hal Smith  this is the Hal Smith who began his career with the Orioles and went on to play with the A's, Pirates, Colt 45s and Reds. It was his three run dinger in the bottom of the eighth of the 7th game of the 1960 Series that gave the Pirates a short-lived lead. An inning later Maz broke that tie and Hal Smith got a ring.


Walt Dropo had a rookie year to remember. It was 1950 and he made his only All Star tean, hit a career high 34 homers and drove in a league leading 144 runs. Yup, he was ROY.


Roger Maris. maybe it's just me but I can't remember a bunch of really cool Topps Maris cards. I like the 1961 MVP card for sure. This card of him as an Athletic is pretty sweet.

All in all it's really a fun set even with it's flaws. I received a box with what I hope is the 'Best of the Sixties' version yesterday. Can't wait to get a chance to dig into that one, too.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Batman Project retrospective

I don't think Batman ever sleeps but I'm putting my Batman Sketch Project to bed. My original goal was to complete a page of sketches for under $75. Well, you know what they say about good intentions. 

Actually I can say I met that goal. I can put nine sketches together on a page with the total cost being well within that total price. I never paid an exorbitant amount for any of these. And some were free. But as time went by I got caught up in the project and ended up with 29 sketch cards and a couple of prints. 

I bought most of these on eBay. About four came from Etsy purchases and the rest were commissions and gifts. If I've tracked them correctly 23 24 different artists are included. 

I had a suggestion that I should post the completed pages so here they are. The cards are in no particular order although my most recently acquired ones are grouped more or less at the end. 


The Batman character has evolved over the many decades he's been a part of pop culture. I've got a book that goes into quite a bit of detail and breaks down the different 'phases' of Batman but I haven't really done more than flip thru it. One day when I have more time I might try to put these cards in some semblance of order. Until then it's just fun to look at the different takes the various artists had.


The card in the bottom right slot of the page below and the top left of the next page were done by my friend who teaches art at my school. They were a neat 'back-to-school' gift that I really appreciated. They were unexpected and one reason why the tidy three page group of 27 sketches spill over to a fourth page. But I'm not complaining!



This last page contains my two 'spill over' sketch cards, three inserts from recent Batman sets and two 'limited edition' numbered prints.


This project turned out better than I expected. A bit more expensive than I expected as well but I'm fine with that. With these cards, three Batman card sets (vintage and contemporary), several over-sized pieces of original art and a few display items I feel I've got a solid Batman collection.

I don't know where I'll go next with it but I'm sure I'll figure that out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

1954 Wilson Franks Vern Stephens


I've had this card on my 'someday' list for a long time. Wasn't on top of the list but it certainly was there. Problem was...the price. These Wilson Franks cards routinely go for over $200 even ungraded. I had an eBay search going for this card and I would get a couple of 'hits' a week but they always seemed to be for $300+ copies. So nailing this one for $85 was a pretty good deal.


Stephens played in the majors from 1941 through 1955 with the Browns/Orioles, Red Sox and White Sox. He was a shortstop early in his big league tenure. The Browns experimented with him in the outfield after an arm injury but that was short-lived. That same injury, by the way, caused him to fail his Army physical keeping him out of WWII. In 1951 he moved over to third base and stayed there the remainder of his career. 

No matter where he played he was a solid hitter. He led the AL in RBIs three times including back-to-back in 1949/50 with the Red Sox. Those years he racked up 159 and 144. His 137 total in 1948 was nothing to sneeze at either. He led the league with 24 dingers in 1945 and hit 39 in '49. He was a seven time All Star and he finished in the Top Ten in MVP balloting six times. With that resume I wonder why we don't hear more about Vern Stephens?

This little (20 card) Wilson Franks set is a lot of fun. It would be pretty pricey to complete but having a card or two would make a nice addition to a vintage collection. Both PSA and Sports Collectors Digest have some good background articles. Check 'em out.

Here is the (unnumbered) checklist:

  • Roy Campanella
  • Del Ennis
  • Carl Erskine
  • Ferris Fain
  • Bob Feller
  • Nelson Fox
  • Johnny Groth
  • Stan Hack
  • Gil Hodges
  • Ray Jablonski
  • Harvey Kuenn
  • Roy McMillan
  • Andy Pafko
  • Paul Richards
  • Hank Sauer
  • Red Schoendienst
  • Enos Slaughter
  • Vern Stephens
  • Sammy White
  • Ted Williams