Ted Taylor's Collector's Corner
Ted Taylor has been a life-long baseball fan and collector of baseball cards and sports memorabilia. He began writing a hobby column back in the early 1970s and has been writing it someplace ever since. He was first president of The Eastern Pennsylvania Sports Collectors Club and co-promoter of the Philadelphia Baseball Card & Sports Memorabilia Shows. He served as VP of the Fleer Corporation (1991-97) and was co-founder and the first President of The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society (1996-99). Ted can be heard playing big band and swing music from 8 a.m. to noon every Tuesday on WRDV-FM (89.3), or you can email him at email@example.com.
April 2, 2014
This is our 39th Year of hobby columns
Ted Taylor’s Collector’s Corner
The A’s Left town 60 Years ago – after the 1954 season
Sixty years ago on Tuesday, April 13, the Philadelphia A’s opened their final season in town by besting the Red Sox 5-4 behind Bobby Shantz. Just 16, 331 fans showed up.
Regular reader Walter Czop had written and asked if I was going to cover the A's last season in Philadelphia. He also sent along a list of questions. Most of them I could answer, but if any readers can supply more info please do.
His first questions had to do with A’s give-aways. They didn’t do that, nor (as he asked) did they have fireworks shows. Simply making the payroll had first dibs on the Mack Family money. Remember, Connie’s sons Roy and Earle were running the club and they were even bigger penny pinchers than their father. Plus, they hated each other.
The team traveled by train. The furthest outpost was St. Louis.
All the games were on the radio – WFIL - with Byrum Saam as the play-by-play man and Claude Haring as his sidekick. Saam and Haring also did TV, the few games (weekends, usually) that were telecast.
The Phils-A’s City Series ran 1903-55 (with the Kansas City A’s coming back prior to the ’55 season) – the games were played in Wilmington). I can find no record of the outcome of the game (or games) but I know I’ve seen it.
The Phillies and A’s never played in Shibe Park the same day – the schedule makers always had one club on the road when the other was home. This meant that there was always baseball at 21st & Lehigh.
The A’s played no “in season” exhibition games in 1954. They had played exhibition games against local sandlot clubs in the 1930’s and 40’s. (Mr. Mack actually had some extra players he’d dress for such games, one of them, later tried to sue baseball for his pension claiming he played for a big league team).
There were both a team yearbook and game programs. The A’s produced yearbooks between 1949 and 1954. They A’s also produced a regular newsletter called “Along the Elephant Trail” that kept fans up-to-date on the club.
The largest home crowd for the ’54 A’s came on April 25. They drew 19,930 fans for a doubleheader with the Yankees. The A’s lost the first game, won the second. The smallest home crowd was on June 5 when they beat Baltimore 7-6 before 1,092 fans. The final A’s home game drew just 1,715 fans on September 19. But the smallest crowd they played before all season was in Washington DC in a 5-4 loss before 460 people. Imagine. A’s 1954 manager Eddie Joost told me (at an A’s Society function in the 1990’s) “that was one long season”.
Typical souvenirs included A’s caps, pennants, buttons, small souvenir bats, pre-printed autographed baseballs. Typical ball park fare included hot dogs (I recall them as being great), peanuts, pop corn, cracker jacks, soda and orange drinks in a carton. I’m sure you could also have purchased cigarettes and cigars.
As I recall, the day games started at 1 PM, night games at 8 PM. Sunday doubleheaders could not continue after 6.59 PM thanks to Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws.
The Philadelphia A’s won the last game they played – September 26 at Yankee Stadium. They topped the Yanks 8-6 recording 16 hits. The game meant little to the New Yorkers who played Mickey Mantle at short, Yogi Berra at third, Bill Skowron at second. Art Ditmar was the winning pitcher, In between opening day and last day wins, however, they managed to drop 103 games.
I was just 13 in 1954 and saw just a few games. The last one was Sunday August 22 when they beat the Senators 3-2 in twelve innings. I also got a foul ball at that game.
When the club left town I was heart broken. They had taken my team away!
Topps Heritage and Opening Day both out now
The long-anticipated Topps Heritage Baseball is here and it looks just as good as I thought it would. The design was cool in 1965, it remains equally cool now. I bought my first four packs (20 cards each) at Target. Unlike the hobby box which I got a few days later, the retail product contains red-border variation cards.
The hobby box-topper is a blue-wrapped and sealed ’65 Topps card. That would be exciting, right? It was until I opened it and found a really beat-up Don Buford card (#81) with writing in two places on the front of it. In the upper right corner is written (in pen) “Red Sox”. This is then crossed out and “Orioles” is written in pen in the upper left corner. Some kid did it in reaction to Buford’s journeys but wouldn’t you think that when Topps reacquired these cards they’d have tossed this one in the trash. I did. I also wonder why would Topps bother putting a gold stamp (50th Anniversary) on the front when it’s a worthless card?
The Topps airbrush guy is back (he was big in the 60’s and 70’s) and he’s recreating new uniforms over old just as he did back in the day. A few airbrush specials include Drew Stubbs with the Rockies (the hat, is, well pretty obvious), Justin Morneau as a Colorado Rockie is not the best do-over I ever saw and the Ricky Nolasco Minnesota Twins revision is pretty glaring. But, okay, at least Topps got the uniforms right.
The Heritage set contains a mystery. There are two card #472 and that’s Joey Votto. The backs, near as I can tell, are identical. But the fronts are totally different. One is a portrait, one is of him batting. What gives? Did I get a treasure? There are also two Johnny Bench cards in the subset “1st Draft”. Bench is both card #JB and #JB2 – the numbering suggests even more Bench cards.
Like last year, Heritage appears to be the one set to deal manager cards in to the mix. Team set collectors, like me, appreciate this extension of the body of the ball club. I also appreciate that this set pictures Jayson Werth looking a little less like a Caveman from the Geico commercials. In those first few packs I got a few duplicates but the one that really kills me (and I got two of them) is the Kris Medlen card (#154) wearing a cap that appears much too large for him. Lucky he has ears.
I got a couple of “Flashback cards” – Jim Palmer and Willie Mays. Also a card of a Russian astronaut and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Why? I have no idea.
The hobby box is fun to open, but it will take a couple of them to even complete the basic 425 card set – forget about the short prints, you’ll never find them all.
You are promised an autograph or a relic in Heritage. I got a relic on an Adam Wainwright card. Problem, as always, is that I don’t what it’s a relic of. On the card back it says “The relic contained in this card is not from any specific game, event or season. So what is it?
Opening Day, as usual, came out a few days before the actual opening day. It is pretty much a re-run of Topps baseball series one, just with an extra logo and different card back numbers. Topps dealt mascots in to this set and one card has the Philly Phanatic shooting off his hot dog cannon. It’s a funny card.
What there is no excuse for in such a set is the inclusion of people who retired at the end of last season – case in point Roy Halladay. Why would he be in an opening day set when there is clearly no chance he’d play this season? But I do recall the words of the late Frank Steele who once told me, “The current card set is really about the year before. Of course it is.”
I bought my first four four 24-card Opening Day packs at Target and got way too many duplicates. If you want folks to buy cards that way Topps needs to do a much better job of sorting and packing. The hobby box, which I got a few days later, had no duplicates at all.
Donruss Baseball returns…one wonders why
Packaged in 8-card offerings, the familiar Donruss “d” dominates the pack and is joined on the cover by David Ortiz, sans any emblem on his uniform. Why? Because Major League Baseball didn’t license the set, but the Players Association did. At $2.99 a pack of eight cards this is no bargain. (To make the pack appear larger they actually stuck a thick piece of blank cardboard in each pack.)
While a lot of the old Donruss favorites are here – “Diamond Kings” (once adorned with artwork by Dick Perez) and “The Rookies” (this used to be an entire year end set) – it is hauntingly familiar to the aborted baseball set Upper Deck sprung on the market a few years ago with air-brushed logos and the city name on each card.
I did find a Pete Rose card in the Donruss offering. When was the last time Topps issued a Rose card? No logo on his uniform and he looks very young, but it was fun to find him in there anyway.
Maybe kids won’t care about the missing logos, but serious collectors surely will. They either need to get an MLB license or forget about competing with Topps. At the price-per-pack they won’t lure a lot of people to this dance.
Topps Baseball Sticker Collection Provides Fun
In the last column I told you about one of the few recent Topps offerings that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg – and can be fun for young collectors (and was for me). It’s the 2014 MLB Sticker Collection. For about $45 you can get the sticker book and a 50-pack-box that will bring you 400 stickers. (There are 315 different ones to collect.)
So over a period of two days and several hours – spanning a number of TV shows going at the same time – I completed my book. I got every player and a load of duplicates. But when all was said and done I was actually missing five pieces for the inside back cover that showed the Red Sox celebrating their World Series win. The pieces were 301, 310, 311, 313 and 314 and I thought that a bit odd. If I never complete that puzzle I’m okay with it, but I’d have been unhappy to come up short of the player stickers. Going in to the last three packs I was six short – including Mike Schmidt – and yet I found them all. (Anybody have duplicates of those cards? I’ll swap from my duplicates pile if you have needs.)
As I said before, it’s great for somebody who wants to build a set without taking a second mortgage and the colorful book looks like pure fun.This new Topps sticker product is a really good way for the economy-minded fan to build a set of current players and add a few retired stars (Ruth, Banks, Killebrew, Ryan, Jackie Robinson, more) as well. It may even bring some kids in to the collecting fold. I call it a great start to baseball season.
Topps Enters new deal with Bryce Harper …
Topps has partnered with Bryce Harper on a new multi-year agreement. They are the only trading card company that can feature Harper’s autographed cards in products and showcase the young star on packaging.
Bryce Harper autographed cards are currently some of the most sought after in the market. Harper’s cards will be available in many of Topps baseball products throughout the season.
Longtime reader – and friend – . . .
Dan Paley is now on the mend and back from a lengthy hospital stay and reading the column. He’s the one who came up with the Sparky Anderson trivia contest a few columns ago. Welcome back!
Thanks –Always happy for your comments on other topics, write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Ted Silary for including this in his web zine and to all of you for regularly reading this.