Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Trading Post #167: Card Hemorrhage (Part 2: Vintage)

I don't know what feels normal anymore. Back pain is normal. Uncertainly is normal. 

Writing a blog post with an NFL playoff game on in the background used to feel a lot more normal than it does right now. It's nice to still be able to bring that back every once in a while, although this blog is starting to take a back seat to other priorities. I did twenty-three posts in 2021, and while I still haven't missed a month, that is about half of what I was doing around 2017.

Not that I don't have enough material to cover, it's just that there is a lot that steals my attention these days. One example of that would be the Marshall Fire that tore through nearby Louisville, Colorado on December 30th. You may have seen it on the news, but unfortunately I got a much closer look at it. My home is still standing, but I was caught in a smoky highway closure as the fire was spreading, was easily within walking distance of a frightening view of the flames that night, and found myself alarmingly close to the outer areas of the evacuation zone.

Seeing your hometown on the national news for this kind of thing is pretty unsettling. Watching the news crews broadcast from an intersection you've driven through a couple thousand times is quite scary. Trying to go about your workday while not being particularly confident that your home will still be there in a few hours is a very unpleasant experience. Knowing the office building you haven't been to in nearly two years (for obvious reasons) is directly in the path of destruction makes it very personal. That survived, although so much nearby was lost. Two lives. Pets. Homes. Businesses.

So, that has given me a lot of emotions to work through, on top of everything else.

In any case, I was reminded of my collection a week or so ago when I got a direct message on Twitter asking about an old 2011 Topps Opening Day hit. A fellow Twitter user inquired as to whether I still had this Justin Germano autograph from a 2015 blog post, and seeing as how it didn't go up in flames last month (one concern among a thousand others I had that day), I was able to help out his autograph collection. It might have been worth a solid amount in better condition, but Topps quality control being what it is, I shipped it off for $7 and got confirmation yesterday that it arrived safely.

Following that, I still want to review some vintage cards I got from Jay at Card Hemorrhage, which made up the remainder of a shipment he sent my way toward the end of 2021.

1991 Topps Archives '53 #324 Vern Law

Now, this isn't really a vintage card, even though it looks like a '53. Experts of these early Topps checklists (including our favorite Tim Wallach supercollector, who is nearing 1953 set completion) will know that Vern Law never made it into the original 1953 set. Neither did 56 other players who made up "The Cards That Never Were" subset at the end of the 1991 Topps Archives checklist.

Topps really took this theme seriously, writing a paragraph for the card back as though we were in early 1953 looking forward at the upcoming season. We're told, "This strong righthanded hurler rejoins the Pirates this year after spending the 1952 campaign in military service." 

Those who don't know the 274-card checklist of 1953 Topps by heart can use several other cues to place this subset as an revisionist augmentation to the set rather than a pure reproduction of the original. 

First, the images are black-and-white photographs rather than the full-color paintings we'd see on the originals. I have a mostly complete run of this set, and the only exception I could find was Hank Aaron's card #317. He did get a color painting, but it's not nearly up to the more lifelike standard found in the originals. The next clue is the background. It's usually a one of a few plain solid colors like this, or sometimes it might overlay a faint black-and-white background.

On the back, you could just check whether the card number is #281 or above. There's no red-colored facsimile signature behind the write-up like you'd see on an original. And finally, the card back will have "The Cards That Never Were" printed on the very bottom.

1991 Topps Archives '53 #132 Tom Morgan

Here's a reproduction of an original '53, and the difference is quite obvious. The colors are vibrant, and there's even some festive little bunting in the background on the facade of the stadium. 

This card is more of a review of Tom Morgan's 1952 season, as he served in the military during 1953, which the card back mentions. He was back in (baseball) action in 1954, wrapping up his career with the Los Angeles Angels in 1963.

I don't know anyone who would call a 1991 card from the heart of the overproduction era "vintage", although one has to wonder. As disconcerting as this fact is, that was thirty-one years ago. And when I really got my collection going in 1993, I'd have to find something from 1962 to have something as old then as this is right now.

But still, 1991 is not vintage.

Is it?

Or is "vintage" an ever-receding landmark in the rearview mirror, something that became fixed in place at some point, an idea that somehow manages never to keep pace with our world that's rapidly becoming more and more unpredictable?

Maybe let's just not think about that.

1971 Topps #675 Dave Boswell

Here's 1971. This is vintage.

This shouldn't be very surprising, but when I go through cards from this long ago, there are a lot of names I don't know. Tons. Dave Boswell is among them. 

He's pictured here as a Twin, which is where he spent his career from 1964-1970. However, the Twins released him in early 1971. He appeared in a handful of games for the 1971 Tigers and Orioles, but that was the end of his career. It was also the end of the line for his Topps issues, meaning this is his sunset card. He appeared in a few oddball sets after that, but Topps never documented either of his final pair of teams.

1971 Topps #499 Checklist 5

Jay threw in a checklist from 1971, and it's stops just a little short of including Dave Boswell's card #675, ending at #643. Whoever had this before me had a long way to go before completing the black-bordered 1971 set, but they certainly had a few of the big names checked off. Hall-of-Famers like Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski, Roberto Clemente, and quite a few others. It's marked in pencil, and it looks like #531 Mike Torrez was possibly erased. Maybe part of a trade?

1978 Topps #23 Bump Wills

Fast forwarding a few years to 1978, perhaps a bit closer to that blurry vintage/modern dividing line, we come to "Bump" Wills, the son of Dodger great Maury Wills.

Wills's true Rookie Card is a four-player card from 1977. This is his first solo card. He finished third in 1977 AL Rookie of the Year voting, losing out to Eddie Murray, but he did earn himself a Topps All-Star Rookie cup, clearly shown on the lower right of the card. It's a nice addition to this posed photo, taken inside the newly-renovated (old) Yankee Stadium.

1967 Topps #76 Jim Barbieri (RC)

Jim Barbieri is another name I don't know, but this 1967 card was the oldest one in this shipment, so up it goes on the blog. The posed photo looks similar to Bump Wills's card, but this checks the box for the always-trusty bat barrel shot.

The card back says that Barbieri threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the 1954 World Series, the very same World Series where Willie Mays gave us "The Catch" in Game 1, so it's very likely that this Dodgers rookie was on hand to witness that legendary defensive play as a thirteen-year-old. The card doesn't specify for which game Barbieri got the honors, but I'll go ahead and believe it was Game 1, because why not? Maybe the ceremonial first pitch used to be exclusive to Game 1 back then, anyway.

Barbieri's career spanned all of thirty-nine regular-season games in 1966, so this Topps card ends up being a combo Rookie Card and Sunset Card. 

There was a 40th game before his career truly ended, though. Apparently no stranger to Game 1 of the World Series, he appeared as a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers in the '66 Fall Classic. He struck out swinging in the 4th inning and that was that.

1986 Negro League Fritsch #19 Martín Dihigo

Jay included a few oddball cards focused on Negro League stars, including Cuban-born Hall-of-Famer Martín Dihigo, "a talented second baseman who was a superior hitter". And despite what you might think from this grainy black-and-white photo, he wasn't a 19th century contemporary of Cy Young or Old Hoss Radbourn. Dihigo played and managed right up through the mid-1940s.

Sadly, by and large, oddballs like this release from Larry Fritsch Cards are about all that's out there for many Hall-of-Famers who played only in the Negro Leagues. Players like Dihigo, Oscar Charleston, Turkey Stearnes, and many others have been as ignored by the card industry as by pre-1947 Major League Baseball itself. For example, Dave Boswell has 28 search results on Beckett. Martín Dihigo has 26. Only one of them is in the Hall of Fame.

Perhaps now that the various Negro Leagues have finally been recognized as Major Leagues, that will start to change. Maybe there would be numerous legal difficulties Topps/Fanatics would encounter if they tried, but I'd buy a retro-themed Negro Leagues set if it were on the market.

Just saying, if there's room for the thousandth Dustin May card, maybe there's room for some Hall-of-Famers that remain far too obscure.

1991 Swell Baseball Greats #9 Joe Black

Another oddball came from the Swell Baseball Greats set, a 1991 release from a brand of the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation. Joe Black, pictured here as a Brooklyn Dodger, joined the National League in 1952, winning Rookie of the Year honors thanks to a 15-4 record. He kept playing through 1957. He got his start with the Baltimore Elite Giants, playing for them from 1943-48.

We'll keep the World Series history going with a fact from the card back, which is that he was the first Black pitcher to win a World Series game. That happened in 1952 versus the Dodgers' crosstown rivals, the Yankees. It was a seven-game battle, as were most of the matchups that decade between the Yankees and Dodgers.

1979 O-Pee-Chee #202 Gary Thomasson

To close, we'll head north of the border. This looks quite like a 1979 Topps card, but look closely inside the little baseball element and you'll see a fun O-Pee-Chee logo! The Canadian brand that licensed and distributed Topps sets for years throughout Canada actually made some noticeable changes to Gary Thomasson's 1979 Topps card.

In the USA set, Topps simply pictured and listed Gary Thomasson as a Yankee, but by the time O-Pee-Chee got around to it, they had time to switch the listed team to the Dodgers, as well as provide the date that Thomasson was traded. The Dodgers acquired Thomasson for catcher Brad Gulden, who bounced around the league until 1986.

I learn a lot when I get stacks of vintage cards. So many of these guys I've never heard of, but there's always a wealth of knowledge to uncover, from small offseason trades to World Series history.



  1. It's fun looking at vintage checklists seeing what future high-dollar cards were checked off by the owners.

    Glad you escaped the worst of the fire.

  2. Oddly, not everyone in that "Cards That Never Were" set was left out of the original 1953 set. Hoyt Wilhelm, for example, is in 1953 Topps, but he also has a CTNW. Not sure whether he's the only one.

    That Martin Dihigo is great. It would be really nice to see Negro League greats beyond maybe Paige and Gibson show up in Topps sets.

  3. I don't ever watch the news, but did see some stills of the aftermath there. It was pretty terrible looking. Given how unprepared everyone seemed to be for such an event, it's a miracle that there wasn't a larger loss of life. It's good to hear that you and yours are okay. And I would imagine that everyone understands why you might not be blogging as much lately.

  4. Sorry to hear your area was hit hard by the fires. Seems like they have been popping up more and more frequently with each passing year.