Sunday, December 29, 2019

All Dressed Up And...

...nothing to buy.

Next Saturday morning I'll head across Houston to hit the hotel card show. My want list will consist of just one card, the Topps '71 football Joe Greene rookie. One card. I can't remember the last time I haven't printed out multiple sheets of names and card numbers to carry to the show.

Oh, sure. I have multiple needs for my 1960 Leaf and '61 Topps stamp chases. But both of those have reached the point where what I'm lacking is so elusive that I don't need to print new copies. Not to mention the fact that the chances that one of the dealers at the small show having something on the lists are remote.

So why am I going? Well, it's a card show. And I really enjoy talking sports and the hobby with the friends I've made among the dealers. And, despite not wanting to tackle a new set now, I do have a hobby goal or two. I've decided to fill out a couple of my player collections.

I'm going to do a few players at a time. And I won't attempt to be a 'completist' in the fashion of my Billy Pierce collection. I'm going to finish off each player's career-era regular cards and inserts and whatever oddballs fall into my lap.

I'm going to dig into Johnny Callison, Elston Howard, and Dennis Martinez first. All of them have cards in my set binders already but, as with Pierce, I am going to have separate player binders. But enough talk. I actually began my jump into this last week at the previous show. I came away with some Callisons and an Elston Howard card that were mostly upgrades to the ones I already had.

The Phillies were the first NL team I took an interest in and Johnny Callison was my favorite Phils player. My best friend and his father were 'NL guys' and went to a lot of games at Shea and I frequently got to tag along. There's no way to know but I wonder if the picture used on his '66 Topps card was taken on a day we were there.

The '67 set keeps calling out to me. I resist. Callison got a nice Spring Training photo here.

Don't know about the '69. Not enough evidence.

By the early 70s, Callison was a Yankee and I was knee-deep in college stuff and no longer cared all that much.

EDIT: Jon's comment below reminded me that this is an O-Pee-Chee Callison. It was mixed in with a dealer's Topps '73s and for a second got me thinking I had found a bargain. He was selling the cards for 50 cents each and the Topps Callison is short-printed and commands a premium for the most part. Here is the back ('73 backs are fun!) plus a Bob Moose OPC that was in there as well. My Moose collection is pretty much complete, btw.)


I nabbed this '66 Ellie Howard knowing I already had one but it was so nice I figured it would be better than the one I owned. I was right.

Meanwhile, I'm cleaning up the checklists I've had for each of them and actually bindering everything. Once these guys are far enough along the way I'll tackle a couple of others. On my list are Paul Blair, Rusty Staub and some guys from other sports, Connie Hawkins and Rod Gilbert.

This little, low-stress project will give me a reason to continue to go to the small card shows. If I can get organized in the next month I should be able to take care of a lot of my list at the TriStar show in February. We'll see.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

All in on '71T Football

Putting the 1969 Topps football set to bed didn't stop my interest in sets of that era. I had considered completing one of the Philly Gum sets that I have starter lots of but something else came along. I was sorting through some boxes as part of my hobby 'clean-up' and found a few stars from this '71 Topps set including the only high dollar card, the Terry Bradshaw rookie.

I've always liked the design of this thing. It's colorful and has that goofy cartoon 'position guy' on it. The fact that my Baltimore Colts were coming off a Super Bowl win probably helped. At 263 cards and only a couple of noteworthy rookies (Bradshaw and Joe Greene), it's not hard to complete.

When a Net54 member offered up a decently priced lot I bought it and committed to building the thing. The same guy offered me a second lot later and I nabbed that as well. Between the cards I already owned and the two lots I bought I was at about 100 cards.

Last Saturday's hotel card show netted me over 100 more. Show promoter/friend Darryl had promised to bring a box of them for me to browse, and he didn't disappoint. The cards he had were in great condition and I found almost 100 more that I needed. I found some others at another dealer's table and have since nabbed more on COMC. So just like that, I'm within striking distance of finishing it.

The cards I'm posting are a mix of those I already had and those I've nabbed in the last month. Starting off with one of my favorites, Gene Washington of the Vikes.

Washington as an alum of the school I taught at for much of my career. He came to speak to our kids a couple of times. I got him to sign one of these cards for me but it's part of a display at the school. When I retired I didn't want to take it with me. Here is part of a previous blog post I wrote about Gene Washington in 2017:

His is a pretty remarkable story of growing up as an athlete in Texas. His home town had no high school that would allow blacks so he took a bus to Baytown, across under the Houston Ship Channel, to all black G. W. Carver High School. He played football and ran track and set records against other black high schools in the Prairie View Interscholastic League. 
He went on to become an All American for the Spartans and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. As for's still there in Baytown. It's no longer a 'stepchild' and no longer a high school. I've taught and coached there for nearly 29 years. Gene has visited a few times and is a gracious, soft-spoken gentleman. When I look up from my door at school every day I see a fantastic framed nearly life-sized photo of him in posed action for Michigan State. Next to that are framed banner listing the football, hoops and track state titles the Gene Washington and his schoolmates won while at Carver.
Washington played seven NFL seasons, all for the Vikings. There is a neat video on the Vikings site. It's part of a documentary done by Gene Washington's daughter chronicling his 'road' to Michigan State and the pros. It's well worth the 10 minutes. 
This is the photo I mentioned in that post. It was hard to take a glare-free pic.

And now back to the '71s!

When I was a high school freshman our locker room was so small we shared lockers. My locker mate was a running back whose favorite player was this guy:

The two NFL Conferences were separated by card frame color in 1971. NFC cards were blue. AFC guys got red cards. All-Stars got fancier cards, both red and blue! These bear a strong resemblance to the '75 baseball design. Here's Alan Page.

As great a player as Page was (and trust me, he was terrific!) his accomplishments during his post-playing days dwarf anything he did to gain the Hall of Fame. Page obtained a law degree and went on to serve on the State Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Fran Tarkington made his name with the Vikings, but he still had that scrambling ability that made him famous when he played for the Giants.

The ageless George Blanda. Classic practice field photo on this one. Mis-cuts are a big issue with the '71 football set. Left-to-right, top-to-bottom, it is an equal opportunity challenge. These don't bother me as long as the cut doesn't run through the picture or text. I'd rather have decent corners if given a choice. Wrong backs and severely mis-cut backs are fairly common as well.

Mercury Morris! An electrifying kick return guy and he had his moments as a running back as well. The NFL has changed the rules so that kick returns are no longer much of a factor in games but back in Morris's day, he was a threat to do his 95-yard-momentum-changing thing every time.

Bonus points if you knew his given name is Eugene.

I can't post a group of football cards without a Baltimore Colt in the mix.

And here is my chance to show the back of one of these. Mackey's card has a cartoon that references his role as the Players Association president. It doesn't mention that the same role would influence the closed good ol' boy network of clowns who kept him from induction in Canton until it was almost too late.

Gale Gillingham's card brings to mind Ray Scott, Packer (and CBS) play-by-play man, who I have always considered the best I've ever heard. "Starr............. this is Dowler.......... Touchdown".

Spider Lockhart, a favorite of my Dad.

Charlie Krueger was 33 years old or younger when this shot was taken. I'm serious.

Jackie Smith was a Hall of Fame tight end for the Cardinals and later, the Cowboys. He had a fine career but is mostly remembered for his drop in the end zone in Super Bowl XIII. Another classic practice field card photo. "That's right, hold it up like you just caught it." It was a popular pose back then.


Oh, and I have a better cut Moses waiting for me in my COMC queue.

I included this Don Hermann card because I think he resembles Eli Manning. 🤷

I think all the Raiders were photographed on this field. The photographer had Biletnikoff stand a little closer.

Preston Pearson is shown on a Steelers card but he was photographed when he was with the Colts. (which, BTW, hadn't been the case since May 1970).

Whoever was assigned to take the Colts' pics lined most of them up against that blue brick wall and snapped away. I pulled this page from my Baltimore Colts collection binder:

Check out the two different fonts Topps used for the team name. Lower card numbers have that wider font. Without digging into it I'll assume that corresponds to the two series, 1-131 and 132-263. Once I get my cards sorted I'll check other teams.

The 1970 set used a bunch of these shots as well:

We'll end this with another All-Star, Bob Griese...with an electrical or phone wire running through the pic behind him.

The last dozen or so cards I need for this set are listed over in the sidebar. I've got a nice stack of dupes if you are interested and have something to swap.

If you are not building it but have been thinking of going after a vintage football set... you could do worse than this one.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Knocking off sets

Nothing remarkable here but I wanted to post the final cards from a couple of sets I've been working on for a while. Up top is the 1957 Bobby Richardson that came last week. The right border is there despite what my scanner did to it. Richardson is a clear-eyed rookie pictured with a faintly seen Yankee Stadium scoreboard behind him and the Bronx as a backdrop.

His card wasn't the last card purchased for the build (that honor went to his infield partner and fellow rookie, Tony Kubek) but it was the last to arrive and find its slot in the binder. Both the Richardson and Kubek cards were part of the shorter-printed 4th Series, both (as noted) were rookie cards and both, being Yankees, carried the 'pinstripe tariff'.

I actually have a few items on my '57 list, a couple of unnumbered checklists and some contest cards, all of which can wait for later. I have 'examples' of each in the binder and that will do me for now.

Below is a poorly scanned '74 Dave Roberts 'Washington' card. I ended up with three of these in my mailbox within a few days of each other due to some good fortune and generous friends. I actually have a few '74s coming from COMC that will be the last to make the binder but this was the last card I found for the set.

Back in early October I was bitchin' and moanin' about the problems I had putting this thing together and I'm still not crazy about it but looking at it in the binder I'm coming around to appreciating it again.

Meanwhile, my '73 build is a card or so from completion and a huge bundle of '71 Topps football cards came my way at the card show on Saturday. I'm now close to 75% done with that fun, colorful set just a few weeks after deciding to tackle it. I think the collecting gods were smiling Saturday as the lot of 71s were in amazing condition and my friend Darryl was in a holiday mood and practically gave them to me.

I'll post a few other pickups from the show and discuss my blogging plans next time.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

That's One Ugly Whale!

Yup, it's pretty ugly, but I was happy to land a 1959 Topps Venezuelan Ace Hurlers card. It puts me just that much closer to finishing off my Billy Pierce collection want list.

These are very difficult to come by and I long ago decided I'd grab one in whatever condition I could get. Other copies that were sold recently were not in much different condition than this one. It's fairly typical of cards from the Venezuelan release of the '59 set. I don't think the fact that he shares the card with Hall of Famer Robin Roberts made this one any more difficult than it would have been otherwise. These '59s are just tough.

I got lucky on this one. It sort of slid in under the radar because two others were up for bids at about the same time. Those two drew off the few other people who chase this stuff and I was able to win this fairly cheaply.

Pierce had a card in two other Topps Venezuelan sets, both were base cards. Those two, the 1960 and 1964 are much more attainable.

I haven't tried yet but I may attempt to clean some of the surface dirt on the front of this card. I don't believe in trimming cards, restoring corners or other restoration techniques, but I have no issue with someone (me in this case) doing some cleaning on vintage cards. I've used a clean, soft cloth to take off gum residue before.

With this one in the fold, I'm down to one card on my Billy Pierce 'target' list, the 1959 Bazooka SP. That one is a tough find and impossible at a cheap price. I haven't given up hope though.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Five Cool Commons

Twitter friend Mark Del Franco tossed up a tweet the other evening asking to see collector's favorite commons. I tossed up my '61 Wes Covington as it's one of my favorite cards, common or otherwise. And I thought that idea would make a good post. I know I really need some motivation to post and I appreciate neat commons from vintage sets, so here we are.

I'm sure I've posted each of these five cards in one form or fashion before, either on this blog or one of my set build blogs. These five are here for different reasons but all are among my favorites.

This '57 Charlie Neal card challenges the '61 Covington for artistic appeal. I just love the Ebbets Field background with the Schaefer Beer ad atop the scoreboard, the fencing above the Gem Blades ad, etc. And don't forget that "Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one."

Don Rudolph's 1959 Topps card looks very ordinary, yes?

But here's the cartoon on the back...

You really do want to read about Don Rudolph's 'dancer' wife. Trust me on this. She's the reason this common is so high on my list.

And Wes Covington appears...

That, my friends, is art. The pose, the bat rack, the uniform (those stirrups!!). The perfect baseball card? It has to be in the running.

I was always a fan of the late Elrod Hendricks. He played and lived with joy and a smile on his face. He never turned down an autograph request and loved talking to fans, especially after his playing days when he was on the Orioles' staff.

This card from the 1975 SSPC set captures him perfectly. Seeing his smile makes me smile. I have a signed copy of this card in my Hendricks binder pages but I like the unsigned one just as much. Hard to beat Ellie's zest for baseball.

The best day I've ever spent in a ballpark came in late June 1970. The Yankees-Indians mid-week, afternoon doubleheader was more fun than one could ever hope for. Tony Horton crawling back to the dugout after whiffing on a Steve Hamilton 'Folly Floater', four dingers by Bobby Murcer, a firecracker tossed from the upper deck that landed at home plate and probably shaved a few years off Ray Fosse's life. And the best baseball brawl I've ever witnessed in person. I did a blog post a few years ago centered on this remarkable day which you can see here.

This card of Vada Pinson from Topps' wonderful 1971 set uses a photo taken during the first game of that doubleheader (with a cameo by Thurman Munson). Every time I see this card I'm reminded of the day my best friend and I spent at Yankee Stadium just weeks before my family made our second, and permanent, move to Houston.

So there they are, five commons I love. I'm sure there are many more I could include in a list of commons I treasure but it would take something remarkable to bounce one of these off my list.

I'd love to see other bloggers' lists.