Wednesday, July 31, 2019

You're in the Army now ('57T anomolies)

At the bottom of my last post which highlighted the cards I received from Joe Shlabotnik, I said I had held one back because of something interesting I found. The card in question is this one, a 1957T Al Aber. Aber was a 19-year pro at this point having broken in with the Indians' organization in 1945 as a 17-year-old.

After 5+ seasons in the minors, a one-game (complete game win) token appearance in 1950, a stint in the military, and a few more minor league seasons, Aber made the bigs as a regular in 1953. He was traded to the Tigers that June and was a spot starter/reliever for a couple of seasons before becoming a bullpen guy for good. This 1957 Topps card with him at Yankee Stadium represents his final big league season.

It's a pretty standard card for this set, posed action shot with Aber in the old Tigers' road jersey they wore for decades until the went to the plainer version about 1960. But you flip the card over and...

...check out the back of Aber's card. In the stat section his years spent serving Uncle Sam are duly noted but the entry says In U.S. Army.

I have never noticed that previously from Topps. The cards from the 50s (1957 was the first to feature year-by-year career stats) through the 60s that made mention of military time always had In Military Service. I'd never noticed a specific branch mentioned.

I grabbed a handful of  '57s and flipped through them hoping to see if Aber's card was the norm. Did Topps list the branch for every player with a military stretch? I was hoping to find someone who had served In U. S. Navy or maybe the U. S. Marines. I hit the jackpot.

First of all, there are plenty of cards on which a player is credited with a generic In Military Service with Whitey Ford, Preston Ward, and Vern Law being among them.

Clicking the card backs make the service lines easier to see.

And a few cards got minor variations...

Nellie Fox and Tommy Byrne (among others) got the full In United States Military Service treatment. Al Cicotte was graced with two separate notations. I need to look into his story.

Ron Northey had a military year and a DL year. (OK, I'm digging here, I admit)

Sal Maglie had a couple of years shaved out of his stats for a completely different reason, and I love that Topps did this:

They repeated this on his 1959 card, btw.

And then I found what I was looking for...a few more Army vets! Jim Lemon had a season line listed just as Aber had...In U.S. Army. So it wasn't a one-time thing.

But there was also a variation of that. Warren Spahn and Early Wynn, a pair of Hall of Fame pitchers, got their army service year(s) spelled out.

Eddie Miksis got an In U.S. Navy shoutout....

Further digging yielded more gems:

Bob Kennedy in the Marine Corps... (and note the weirdly aligned second line of text in his bio. Something isn't right)

Hank Sauer's card shows his time in the U. S Coast Guard...

But the best of the bunch was this one:

Yup, Teddy Ballgame gets his WWII service credited as being In U. S. Naval Aviation. How cool is that? Interestingly there is no notation for his Korean War service time due to his actually getting some playing time at the beginning of 1952 and late in 1953.

That covers the different notations among the cards I have as I build the '57 set. As I mentioned this is the first set that had full career yearly stats. They went away in 1958 and returned in 1959. A quick flip thru my '59 binder shows only the standard In Military Service, no branch-specific credits.

Once I finish off the set I'll go thru and do a complete count. I love these little card 'quirks'.


  1. That is pretty cool to see. Thanks for going through the cards to pick them out.

  2. Good eye, Commish! And a great post. It's nice that Topps specified the branch for some of the cards.

  3. Interesting details... I wonder if it was a matter of different people writing those lines or maybe more along the lines of "We'll specify the branch if we happen to know..."

    I never noticed how much photo manipulation - and pretty good photo manipulation - there is in 57T. Eddie Miksis and Hank Sauer both look like they've been modified, and there's also that Ray Jablonski from your previous post.

    ...And oh, my.. that Al Cicotte card...

    1. I'd bet you are correct on the Sauer and Miksis. They put more effort into those than they did on a lot of the 70s era airbrushing.

    2. Part of me wonders if the slides were larger in the 1950s so the modifications were easier to make than in the 1970s.

  4. Awesome post! I don't have many 57's in my collection... but I might need to go out and grab a Sauer in my dad's honor. He was in the U.S. Coast Guard too.

    1. My nephew is currently in the USCG stationed in Miami. Not a bad gig.

  5. Cool! Ted Williams' '57 Topps card is one of my most prized Red Sox cards, yet I don't think I'd ever noticed that before. Great post!

  6. Nice eye and fun post. This is a good topic for a SABR post and while I swear I've seen these elsewhere it's only been in-passing and not as thoroughly documented as here.

  7. I never would have noticed these differences unless I committed to building the set, so thank you for detailing all of the military designations. My father-in-law built this set as a kid(his mom threw it out!) and if he were still with us I would show him this post for sure.