Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Long-time minor listing finally pictured
Back when I was editor of the Standard Catalog of Baseball cards, my annual updating of the vintage minor league listings always started on a discouraging note.
Year after year I was resigned to once again not having a card to illustrate the very first listing in the section: the 1959 Apco Meat Packing Co. San Antonio Missions team set. I no longer recall specifically where the bare-bones information that appears in the SCBC originated; likely it cam from the old Bert Sugar "Bible."
The set's introduction in the catalog reads, "The extent of this issue was well as its distribution are not known. The 3-1/2" x 4-1/2" black-and-white cards may have been packaged with meat products and/or given away at the ballpark. The team was (the) Class AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs."
There are only two cards listed in the catalog's checklist: Russell Gragg and Mike Lutz, with the notation that the latter is pictured in a Corpus Christi uniform (more on that later).
Now it looks like that listing will no longer have to go naked.
Collector Mark Rios has sent a scan of what can reasonably be presumed to be an example from the Apco set.
His card depicts Grady Hatton, who was player-manager of the Missions, 1958-1960.
Mark said he bought the Hatton card from a long-time postcard collector/dealer in the San Antonio area. He said it was found in a non-sports postcard album and was the only baseball-related card in the album.
He describes the card as conforming the size listed in the catalog but says it is more sepia-and-white than black and white. It is blank-backed with no attribution to the local Apco Meat Packing Co. He believes the stains throughout the card are consistent with it having been packaged with a meat product. The card has a glossy finish. There is a facsimile signature in the wide white border at bottom.
I'd say he is correct in his assumption that he has found a surviving example of the 1959 Apco Meat Packing Co. minor league issue.
While poking around on baseball-reference.com, I see there are potentially some very exciting possibilities with this team set. There were 17 former or future major leaguers on the 1959 S.A. roster including future Hall of Famers Ron Santo and Billy Williams. What a find those would be!
Now, about Mike Lutz . . .
I'm unsure why he was listed as part of this set. Lutz played in the Texas League in 1951 and 1953-1960, with Dallas, Tulsa, Shreveport, Corpus Christi, Austin and, for part of 1957, San Antonio. He played 13 seasons in the minor leagues without ever getting a cup of coffee in the bigs.
In 1959 he spent most of the season with Corpus Christi, a San Francisco Giants farm team.
Why, then, was he checklisted sometime in the hobby's past with the Apco San Antonio team set?
My wild-ass theory is that the card may have been some sort of tribute attesting to the popularity of Lutz around the Texas League. In 1958 he'd led the circuit with 39 home runs, 111 RBIs and 171 hits while batting .313.
I guess we'll never know and will have to settle with finally having a picture to go with the set's catalog listing.