Thursday, January 28, 2016

Customs expand Wahoo McDaniel's card legacy

It's almost as hard to find the nuts and bolts of Ed "Wahoo" McDaniel's football career today as it was to sort fact from fiction during his nearly three decades as a professional wrestler.

The internet has lots of information, of course, but much of it is wrong. I spent most of a day recently trying to verify the details of McDaniel's days in the early American Football League.

It wasn't just idle curiosity. I was researching data to write the backs for a pair of custom cards I created. 

McDaniel, you see, for as popular and colorful of a player as he was, was almost entirely neglected by the bubblegum card companies in the 1960s. His only mainstream football card was in the 1967 Topps set, which has him with the AFL expansion Miami Dolphins, though the photo shows him in a N.Y. Jets jersey.

While the 1967 Topps McDaniel card is easy to find, collectors will have a difficult time acquiring a rare regional. He is included in a 1967 Dolphins team set that was issued two players per week by the south Florida chain of Royal Castle burger joints. And it will be expensive when it is available. 

McDaniel also has a couple of 1980s rasslin' cards for those who are into that.

The back of his '67T football card, #82 in the set, illustrates what I mean about getting the facts straight. Topps says he "played with San Diego, Houston, Denver, New York and now Miami".

While McDaniel was Chargers property twice in his career, I can't find that he ever played with them. He was selected by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 1960 AFL draft, though I can't find a list of draft picks by round. In 1968, at the end of his pro football days he was traded to the San Diego Chargers after a dust-up with Miami police officers. He never played with San Diego, though, going into professional wrestling full-time.

As near as I can determine, McDaniel spurned the L.A. Chargers' draft to go to camp with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. He played seven games at offensive guard with the eventual 1960 AFL Champion Houston Oilers, but how he got there, I don't know.

Another example: a couple of internet sites say that McDaniel played on Bud Wilkinson's 1955 and 1956 Sooners national championship teams. However, McDaniel was still in high school during the 1955 season, and in 1956 he was a freshman and, under NCAA rules of the time, was ineligible t play on the Oklahoma varsity.

Likewise, I can find no details of how he got from Houston to the Denver Broncos for the 1961 season. I chose the 1962 Fleer format for one of my Wahoo McDaniel custom cards; it is my first in that style.

My other custom is done in the style of the 1965 Topps "tall boy". Fortunately the specifics of McDaniel's acquisition by the Jets are well documented. He was part of a Jan. 1, 1964, nine-player trade which sent McDaniel and three other Denver Broncos to New York for five Jets.

It was in New York that McDaniel became one of the AFL's most popular stars. His aggressive play on the field and tabloid-fodder exploits off the field made him a fan favorite in the style of Joe Namath . . . before there was a Joe Namath in New York.

In the Jets' first game in Shea Stadium on Sept. 12, 1964, before a then-record AFL crowd of 45,409, McDaniel was credited with 23 tackles against his old team as New York beat the Broncos 30-6.

Of all the articles available on the internet about Wahoo McDaniel, you can't do any better than this piece by G. Neri: McDaniel biography

Neri's blog captures the reason that I, as a young fan of the upstart AFL in the early 1960s, was a big fan of Wahoo McDaniel. I'm happy to expand the world of McDaniel's cards.with this pair of customs.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Players featured on shoe company premiums

One of my favorite stops when I was doing the card show circuit in the 1980s-1990s was the set up of Mike and Cindy Mosier of Columbia City Collectibles in Indiana.

When time and crowd size permitted, I always found something "uncataloged" on his tables or in the many boxes underneath and out front. There are many listings in the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards that are there because Mike would allow me photograph them.

Today, like much of the rest of the sports card/collectibles hobby, the Mosiers have adopted eBay as a primary sales venue. The day this was written, Columbia City had more than 8,000 listings on eBay. You can find his stuff there under the seller ID cocicoco.

It was there the other night that collector Sean Sullivan found an heretofore unseen item to add to his Joe Torre collection.

"I have never heard of it" Sullivan said. "The year (on the auction listing) is wrong, because he didn’t play for Atlanta until 1966 (when the Braves moved there from Milwaukee)."

Sullivan was initially concerned that the 9" x 12" black-and-white, blank-backed premium print might be a latter-day creation or fantasy. Doing some digging, Sullivan said, "I found a few 1966 or 1967 football premiums that look similar, and the Dallas Cowboys collectors' site lists a Fortune Shoes checklist for Dallas players in 1966."

So he took a chance and in fairly competitive bidding, bought the piece for $30.75, postpaid.

The picture of the Braves' catcher on this print is the work of old-school commercial illustrator Ed Vebell.

The line of type at the bottom of the print reads: "Fortune Shoe Company - A Division of Genesco - Nashville Tenn."

Sean's question to me -- and mine to you -- is: Are there there other baseball players in this series? If you can add to the "checklist," I'd be glad to get a scan or cell phone-photo.

A quick google search turned up a similar premium of Whitey Ford on eBay, and ads in Ebony magazine in the mid-1960s had Vebell illustrations of Willie Mays, John Henry Johnson, Gayle Sayers and Lennie Moore. The ads mentioned that a free copy of the player picture could be had by writing to the company.

At the time this was written Mosier's eBay offerings included Fortune premiums for these baseball players: Harmon Killebrew, Bill "Moose" Skowron, Ralph Terry and Tommy Davis, and football players: Don Meredith, Charlie Johnson, Johnny Unitas, Jim Taylor, Frank Ryan and Roman Gabriel.

Whatever information comes my way will be forwarded to the current editor of the Standard Catalog for possible future inclusion.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mantle was non-PC fashion critic

From some of the autographs he left behind, and some of the quotes attributed to him in places like Jim Bouton's book Ball Four, we know Mickey Mantle was not a politically correct person.

Hell, he was a red-neck Okie who came to his majority in the 1950s.

But his fashion criticism of the Kansas City A's new uniforms in 1963 would today get him sentenced to a sensitivity class by the pc police and roundly censured by the liberal media.

Upon viewing the green-and-gold vest-style uniforms in which Charlie Finley outfitted his team both at home and on the road in 1963, Mantle was quoted as saying, "They should have come out of the dugout on tippy-toes, holding hands and singing." 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Double, HR and K - all in one at-bat

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

"I'm the only hitter in history to get a double, a home run and a strike out in the same time at bat," Milwaukee Braves 1B/C/LF Gene Oliver was quoted in the Aug. 10, 1963, Sporting News by Milwaukee baseball beat writer Bob Wolf.

The incident happened during the first game of a Sunday doubleheader on July 28, 1963, at County Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds. 

Oliver had started the game at first base. He'd been hit by a Jim Maloney pitch in the fourth inning.

When he came to the plate in the sixth, the Braves were behind 3-4 with one out and nobody on. Oliver hit a line drive down the third-base line; what looked like a sure double that might start a big inning.

Umpiring at third base, Lee Weyer called it a foul ball, even though, Wolf wrote, "it appeared to have raised a cloud of foul-line lime and a heated hassle ensued."

Braves manager Bobby Bragan and third-base coach Jo Jo White contested the call. Bragan insisted that Weyer accompany him out to the spot in question. Weyer refused. Bragan said he going to go anyway. The umpire told him that if he did, he was out of the game. Bragan did, and he was. 

Weyer also ejected White. Perhaps White got too personal about the umpire's lack of experience. At age 26 Weyer was not only the youngest umpire in National League history, but was also believed to be biggest arbiter in major league history, at 6' 6" and 235 pounds.

Meanwhile, back at home plate, Oliver belted the next pitch over the left field wall, apparently tying the game. Home plate umpire Al Barlick, however, ruled it a no-pitch because Oliver's teammates had called time out to get a replacement coach in the third-base box to replace White.

Oliver was called out on strikes; Barlick called him out of the game when Oliver threw down his bat in the general direction of Weyer at third.base. 

The Reds held their 4-3 lead for the win.

The game had been on national television. There some 7,000 Little Leaguers among the crowd of 20,500 in the park. Journal writer Chuck Werle said the kids "probably will grow up hating umpires."

Oliver and White were later fined $25 by NL President Warren Giles; Bragan was not fined.

He had proved an instant hit with Milwaukee's fans when he came over from St. Louis on June 15 in the deal that had sent Lew Burdette to the Cardinals. Oliver had hit 6-for-12 in his first three games. 

Milwaukee had been desperate to find a first baseman who could hit. If he was a right-handed bat, as Oliver was, so much the better. Norm Larker, Tommie Aaron and Lou Klimchock would hit a combined .189 that season with a pair of home runs among them. In his 95 games for Milwaukee, Oliver hit 11 home runs to tied for fourth-best on the team. His batting average for 1963 was .250.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New World on Wheels features Chet's Minerva

The most recent addition to my lineup of World on Wheels custom cards depicts an auto that I was once quite familiar with. It is a 1926 Minerva Town Car that was owned by my former boss (and current owner of the building where I have my retirement office) Chet Krause.

At one time, the pictured auto was the crown jewel of his vintage motor vehicle collection. In 1971 Chet had founded Old Cars newspaper as an expansion of the numismatic periodicals and books line that he had begun in 1952. By the mid-1970s, his publishing business was doing real well, and he had the resources to indulge himself with buying and/or restoring all manner of vintage cars, trucks, military vehicles, tractors and gas engines.

For a tumultuous year in 1978-79, I served as editor of the Old Cars division at Krause Publications before moving on to create the company's baseball card division. 

The car on this WoW custom was built for former professional boxer Patrick "Packey" McFarland.

Like most luxury autos in that era, McFarland's limo was one of a kind. The car was designed by Paul Ostruk. Its chassis was built by Minerva in Belgium. The body was crafted by LeBaron in New York and the car was powered by a 30 H.P. six-cylinder Knight engine.

McFarland died in 1936 when a staph infection attacked his heart. His widow sold the Minerva around 1946. In 1953 it was purchased by collector Embert Grooters of Grand Rapids, Mich. In the auction of his estate in 1972, Chet Krause bought the Minerva.

Chet recalls that the Minerva was a "little rough" by the time it reached his hands. He expended considerable money in refurbishing the body and engine.

The Minerva was used periodically to convey visiting dignitaries around Iola. I recall that in 1984, when Allen Kaye, publisher of Baseball Card News, brought his family to Iola to finalize the sale of his hobby paper to Krause Publications, his wife and daughters were much impressed by being chauffeured around town in the long blue beauty by a multi-millionaire. 

Not long thereafter, the Minerva was auctioned in one of James Leake's famed collector vehicle sales in Tulsa.

Electing to offer the car at no reserve, Krause was unpleasantly surprised when it was hammered down at a price that he recalls was under $25,000. Two of the auto hobby's deep pockets went after the Minerva initially, but when they discovered they were bidding against each other, one dropped out.

The car was sold to the Imperial Palace casino hotel in Las Vegas, where it was displayed. It was again sent to auction in 2000, and was bought by an English collector. Subsequently, it was sold to a collector in New Zealand. At last report, the car has been repainted in burgundy tones. 

During Chet's ownership of the Minerva, I bought an example of a T9 Turkey Red cabinet card of Packey McFarland. McFarland was one of 25 boxers in the 1910-11 series that was contemporary to the tobacco company's more famous T3 Turkey Red baseball players.

The card was kept in a pouch in the passenger compartment to show to guests. It may still be there today.

McFarland was born in 1888 in Chicago and turned pro as a boxer in 1904. Fighting in the lightweight and welterweight divisions he compiled a record of 105 wins (51 by knockout) against just one loss, six draws and a no-contest.

Considering that record, it is surprising that McFarland never won a world title. Ring Record Book and Boxing Encyclopedia suggests McFarland was the best fighter to never become a world champion. During his career he met and defeated most of the title holders in his weight classes, but none of the bouts were for the championship.

He retired in 1915. Unlike so many boxers, he retired to a life of luxury. He had sizable investments and was a director of two banks. He could well afford this custom-built chauffeur-driven town car. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Death of Irvin leaves 47 1952 Topps survivors

The passing on January 11 of Hall of Famer Monte Irvin leaves 47 players alive who appeared in the iconic 1952 Topps baseball card set.

The eldest, as shown in the chart here (data taken from the website, are Wally Westlake and Eddie Robinson, who, as this is written, are 95 years old.

The youngest living player to appear on a 1952 Topps card is Bobby Del Greco, who is 82.

I began this chart with a posting on this blog on June 10, 2015, when there were 50 survivors. Between then and now, only players who appeared in the '52T set died, Billy Pierce on July 31 and Yogi Berra on Sept. 22.

I'll attempt to keep this updated as the year 2016 progresses.

PLAYER                     1952 TOPPS   BIRTH
                        `           CARD NO.      DATE

Wally Westlake           38                    11/08/1920
Eddie Robinson           32                    12/15/1920
Sam Mele                    94                    01/21/1922
Gil Coan                      91                    05/18/1922
Harry Perkowski          142                  09/06/1922
Red Schoendienst       91                    02/02/1923
Solly Hemus                196                  04/17/1923
Bob Kuzava                 85                    05/28/1923
Ed Fitz Gerald             236                  05/21/1924
Turk Lown                   330                  05/30/1924
Charlie Silvera             168                  10/13/1924
Irv Noren                     40                    11/29/1924
Wayne Terwilliger       7                      06/27/1925
Bobby Shantz              219                  09/26/1925
Bob Addis                    259                  11/06/1925
Ned Garver                 212                  12/25/1925
Ralph Branca              274                  01/06/1926
Bob Borkowski            328                  01/27/1926
Randy Jackson           322                  02/10/1926
Joe Garagiola              227                  02/12/1926
Howie Judson             169                  02/16/1926
Bob Miller                    187                  06/16/1926
Bobby Morgan             355                  06/29/1926
Johnny Groth              25                    07/23/1926
Roy Sievers                 64                    11/18/1926
Carl Erskine                250                  12/13/1926
Carl Scheib                 116                  01/01/1927
Charlie Maxwell           180                  04/08/1927
Cloyd Boyer                280                  09/01/1927
Bob Kelly                     348                  10/04/1927
Tommy Brown             281                  12/06/1927
Dick Gernert                343                  09/28/1928
Joe Presko                  220                  10/07/1928
Bob Ross                    298                  11/02/1928
Joe DeMaestri             286                  12/09/1928
Curt Simmons             203                  05/19/1929
Ted Lepcio                  335                  07/28/1929
Ike Delock                   329                  11/11/1929
Del Crandall                162                  03/05/1930
Vern Law                     81                    03/12/1930
Johnny Antonelli          140                  04/12/1930
Dick Groat                   369                  11/04/1930
Bob Friend                  233                  11/24/1930
Willie Mays                  261                  05/06/1931
Tony Bartirome           332                  05/09/1932
Dick Brodowski           404                  07/26/1932
Bobby Del Greco         353                  04/07/1933

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, 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.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dodgers' home field was anathema to Spahn

Regular readers of my blog have probably figured out that I am a big fan of Warren Spahn.

He was the ace of the Milwaukee Braves staff during my childhood and probably the second-greatest left-handed pitcher of all time.

Among my custom card creations are two that picture Spahnie as a Braves pitcher, in the format of 1954 and 1955 Bowman. I've also done an alternative version of Spahn's 1965 Topps card as a Mets pitcher. There are two cards, 1969 and 1971 Topps-style, marking his time as manager of the Tulsa Oilers. I've also done a 1972-style card of Spahn as a Cleveland Indians pitching coach. There may even be a few more Spahn customs down the road.

As I read microfilm of back issues of The Sporting News, I'm always drawn to articles and feature about Spahn. One such in a mid-1963 issue caught my attention because it hit on another area of personal interest: streaks.

According to that article, between the second game of the Aug. 21, 1948 double header and June 28, 1963, Spahn never won an away game against the Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers; not in Ebbets Field, not in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and not in the Dodgers' new stadium in Chavez ravine.

Prior to the beginning of the 9/48 to 6/23 losing streak, Spahn had faced the Dodgers in Brooklyn nine times. In his rookie season of 1942 he had no decision in his first-ever appearance there on April 20. After serving three years in the army during World War !!, Spahn was 1-1 with a no-decision in 1947. He was 2-1 with a save at Ebbets in 1948 prior to the start of his bad-luck skein.

During that drought, Spahn lost once more at Ebbets in 1948, twice in 1949 (though he did earn a save in relief on Aug. 22), five times in 1950, twice in 1951 and once in 1952.

Spahn got a no-decision in his only game at Ebbets in 1953, being knocked out of the box early with Milwaukee behind 4-2. They rallied for a 9-8 victory.

By the mid-1950s, Braves manager Charlie Grimm took the jinx seriously and Spahn did not pitch at Ebbets Field (or Roosevelt Stadium, for that matter) at all in 1954-1957.

The Dodgers' move to Los Angeles in 1958 did not change Spahn's luck against the team on their home field. He lost once and had a no-decision that season at the Coliseum.

In 1959, Spahn lost once in L.A., had a no-decision and a blown save. In 1960 he only pitched there once, with no decision. In 1961, Spahn lost twice at the Coliseum.

His luck was no better at the new Dodger Stadium; he lost his only game there in 1962.

Spahn had accumulated 16 losses, three no-decisions and a blown save against the Dodgers on their home field between Aug. 21, 1948 and June 28, 1963.

When he finally broke the streak, he did so with one of the finest performances of his career.
On June 28, the 42-year-old lefty had a perfect game going into the seventh inning before giving up a single to Jim Gilliam. Later in the game Frank Howard and Maury Wills also singled. While Spahn was completing his shutout, Don Drysdale, on the mound for the Dodgers, also had a good game going. He scattered seven hits and allowed just one run before taking the 1-0 loss. The win was the 338th for Spahn, and his 58th shutout.

With the ice broken, Spahn won again the next time he appeared in Los Angeles, beating the Dodgers 6-1 in a complete-game effort Aug. 23.

In 1964, his final year with the Braves, he had an eight-inning no-decision on April 19 and took a loss there on June 16.

The first time Spahn pitched in Los Angeles after being sold to the Mets for the 1965 season, he notched a win, going to 1-1 with a loss there on June 20. After being released by the Mets and signing as a free agent with the Giants, he pitched just once more in Dodger Stadium. He started the Sept. 6 game but was lifted in the second inning, not figuring in the decision.

Whether home or away, Spahn fared worse against the Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers than any other team during his entire career, 1942-1965. He appeared against them 77 times, with a 24-37 (.393) record. (Actually, Spahn's record against the Milwaukee Braves in 1965 was 0-2, but that's not statistically important.)

Besides the regular season, Spahn pitched in the Dodgers' home park once in the All-Star game on the Dodgers' home field. In 1949 he started for the National League at Ebbets Field. He gave up four hits and four runs in 1.1 innings. He did not have a decision in the 11-7 loss to the AL. In the second All-Star game of 1959, he was named to the NL team (as he was 17 times in his career), but did not appear. The game was played Aug. 3 at the Coliseum, and Spahn was scheduled to start the next day in San Francisco.

*  *  *

Another Spahn item found in TSN in mid-summer 1963 concerned picture-taking at the All-Star game.

A photographer was posing Spahn and Koufax and asked if the two lefties could stand closer together. "We can't get these noses any closer," Koufax said, grabbing Spahn's honker.

In a similar vein, at some occasion or other comedian Bob Hope asked Spahn to autograph a photo. Spahn was reported as personalizing the portrait, "To Old Ski Nose from Old Hook Nose."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reynolds .846 streak locked in bonus

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

In these days of free agency and option years, the term "salary drive" developed to describe a player's performance as he attempts to showcase his talents in hopes of positively influencing his next contract.

In 1963, something of that sort occurred when first-year pro Tommie Reynolds went on a tear to earn a $2,500 bonus the K.C. Athletics had promised him if he remained on the roster at Class A Burlington of the Midwest League on July 15. The 21-year-old third baseman had signed as a free agent with the A's out of San Diego City College.

The Bees played a series against Dubuque, July 10-12. Retired on his first at-bat, Reynolds then ran up a streak of seven singles, a triple and two home runs before being stopped. Then he singled again to bring his series performance to 11-for-13, an .846 average. Along the way he added two walks and drove in nine runs.

On July 13, at Quad Cities, Reynolds was 3-for-5 including a homer. He was hitless on the 14th. So, yes, Tommie Reynolds was still on the Burlington team on July 15 and earned his $2,500 bonus. His single that night deprived Quad Cities' lefty Ken Turner of a no-hitter.

Reynolds went on to hit .332 for the season, with 27 home runs; both were tops on the team; his 27th homer breaking a team record that stood for 50 years. His 88 RBI's tied him for the league lead. To protect Reynolds from the Rule 5 minor league draft, he got a September call-up, but  hit only .053 in eight games with Kansas City.

Tommie Reynolds went on to an eight-year career in the major leagues, hitting .226 for the A's, Mets, Angels and Brewers through 1972. He then spent six more seasons with Milwaukee's Triple-A farms, and did some minor league managing for Oakland in the late 1980s.

Reynolds made his baseball-card debut on a 1964 Topps Rookie Stars card. He had his own card for 1965. He did not appear on a Topps card in 1966, was shown with the Mets in 1967 and absent again in 1968.

He's shown with Oakland in 1969-70 and the Angels in 1971. There are no cards of Reynolds as a Brewer in 1972, but he appears in a number of minor league team sets in the Seventies, and as a manager in the mid-1980s.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Titanic card is my latest Rails & Sails custom

Most of the "Sails" in the 1955 Topps Rails & Sails bubblegum set were paintings of generic historic and contemporary boats and ships.

There were, however, a number of named ships among the 70 "Sails" cards in the 200-card set.

My latest custom non-sports card adds one more, the famed R.M.S. Titanic. The luxury liner was so designated because it was a Royal Mail Service vessel. Among those on board were five postal clerks, two British and three American. While I find it hard to believe, it is said that on her ill-fated maiden voyage the Titanic was carrying seven million pieces of mail. None was ever recovered.

There are, of course, many paintings of the Titanic that are suitable for use on a Topps-style Rails & Sails card. There are at least two dramatic pieces that show the ship amid icebergs. These are night scenes, presumably meant to capture the scene at 11:40 p.m. (ship's time) on April 14, 1912, when the ship sideswiped a 3,000-year-old piece of glacier in the North Atlantic.

I was unaware that the fact that the sky was clear and the seas calm contributed to the disaster. Apparently such conditions don't provide a good look at where the iceberg and ocean meet.

If I was still printing cards, I would have decided against one of these night scenes because -- and this is the first time I've ever revealed this -- it is a personal peccadillo of mine that pictures of ships in storms or rough seas send a shiver down my spine. I sometimes think this lends credence to the theory of reincarnation; maybe in some past life I was lost in a shipwreck.

Since I've decided not to print my custom cards for sale to other collectors, and perhaps will not even print one for my own archives, it makes it much easier to produce alternative versions of many series.

This is especially true of Rails & Sails card fronts of the "Sails" subset, because the format is just a borderless picture with some superimposed type. 

There is no shortage of material in print and on the internet concerning the Titanic and her fate. A few things you may not have known, however, that piqued my interest are . . .

  • at 883' long, 94' abeam and 175' tall, displacing 52,310 tons fully laden, the ship was the largest man-made movable object on earth.
  • the most expensive First Class ticket on the Northampton to New York route was $4,350. That's about $105,000 in today's dollars. It's not too much of a stretch to assume that accommodation was booked by John Jacob Astor, one of the world's richest men at time time, who went down with the ship.
  • despite the "women and children first" law of the sea, three dogs, a Pekinese and two Pomeranians, made it into the lifeboats and survived. There was a dozen dogs confirmed to have been on board.
  • lastly, I am among the minority in this country that has never seen a minute of the 1987 James Cameron movie Titanic.