Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some light shed on mystery Jimmy Waytt card

A veteran West Coast hobbyist and long-time professional baseball photographer has provided some interesting insight into the "1956 Remar Bread" card of Jimmy Wyatt that we wrote about a while back.

Doug McWilliams, a long-time Oakland Oaks collector and fan, wrote. "I saw your musings about Jimmy Wyatt and the 1956 Oaks card. I would say it is strictly a vanity card.The image used is not Mr.Wyatt. It is Dick Wakefield and it matches exactly his 1950 Remar/Sunbeam card --on the front.

"I own the original 4x5 negative used for that card," McWilliams wrote, " and have several glossy prints of same. My original has much more surrounding image on the negative than the real card does. The 'JimmyWyatt' card matches exactly the cropping of the 1950 Wakefield. I'd guess he used maybe the original printer's image (negatives, plates, etc.), but I doubt it.

"Maybe he worked in the same print shop that did the 1950 Remars, and came upon them in 1956, and printed them for fun, which might explain the coloring, toning of age, with the paper. Or, maybe he came up with some 'old' paper recently, and did them. Ihave unused paper that's 50-60 years old around here. The speculation is endless."

McWilliams continued, "If you look up minor league ball players, there is a James Wyatt listed,he would have been 20 in 1956 (not 22), he was the same weight, but not the same height. And -- he never got past 2 years in 'D' ball. I'd guess the card is for another Jimmy Wyatt.

Doug McWilliams was a major league photographer from 1969 through 1995, 24 years of that for Topps. He also shot for himself, and did B&W and color postcards for the players' personal use. His pre-1981 player postcards are listed in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trying to top Topps' 74 Namath

As I said in my Oct. 27 posting when I introduced by 1977 Topps-style football card of Joe Namath in a Los Angeles Rams unifiorm, an apparent contract dispute between Topps and Broadway Joe prevented Namath's appearance on a Topps card after 1973.

Few collectors have ever seen the proof card Topps prepared for its 1974 football set before Namath pulled the plug. As far as I know, there are at least two examples of the blank-back proof 1974 Topps Joe Namath card. Larry Fritsch showed me the one he had more than 25 years ago. In 2004, Heritage Auctions sold an example for $2,340. I'd be surprised if more than two or three other examples of the Namath proof card exist.

In one way, that's not a bad thing, because what Topps was contemplating issuing in 1974 was one ugly-ass card.
I never planned to do any other Topps-style Joe Namath cards for those missing years, but when I gave the '74 proof another look, I thought it might be fun to see if I could improve on the Topps prototype.

For my 1974-style card I decided to adhere to the spirit of Topps' license in that period. That is, since Topps didn't have a license with the NFL, they couldn't depict uniform or helmet logos. Most of the 528 cards in the 1974 set have players in portrait or posed-action photos, usually bare-headed. (The cards are a great resource for researching football player hair styles in the mid-1970s.)

The few game-action photos in the set have been airbrushed to eliminate helmet and jersery logos.

My search for a helmet-less pose of Namath offered few decent choices that dated to that era, but I was fortunate enough to find an eminently suitable picture, as shown here.

As mentioned, the 1974 Topps proof card of Namath is blank-backed. I created a back that I have put on both my reprint of the proof and on my custom card.

I'll let you be the judge of whether I was able to improve on the Topps product, at least in this one instance.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tribute cards to a personal favorite

Sometimes it's hard to say why a collector chooses a player as a personal favorite. That was the case with me and Johnny Sample. I don't know whether it began when I first saw his 1960 Topps rookie card, which remains to my mind one of the most visually appealing football cards of its time, or whether it was my natural teenage contrarian tendancy to embrace what others loathed. And many was the Packers fan in the 1960s that cursed Sample as an uppity something-or-other as he laid out another Green and Gold receiver.

I remember reading his book, Confessions of a Dirty Football Player, published in 1970, after his reitrement. That candid assessment of professional football as he lived it was to the NFL establishment what Jim Bouton's Ball Four was to Major League Baseball. I'm going to order a copy from Amazon and re-read it. I suggest you do the same, or at least google him and read some of the articles available on the internet.

In gathering information for my 1955-style Johnny Sample card, I had to go all the way back to the basics, since I didn't even know what college he had played for.

Turns out Sample was perhaps the finest all-around athlete ever to play for Maryland State. That school, one of what is now known as an Historically Black College/University, last fielded a football team in 1979 and is now known as University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

From 1954-58 Sample starred on the gridiron as a running back, defensive back, punt and kick returner and punter/place kicker. He was named a first-team Black College All-American in 1955 and 1957. His teams had a 28-1-1- record and he earned the distinction of being the first player from an HBCU team selected to play in the College All-Star Game.

Sample also played basketball as a freshman, was a member of the track team and was said to be an accomplished gymnast. On the baseball diamond, he was a slugging, base-stealing all-star second baseman, named the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year in 1958 and earning a contract offer from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Sample chose to sign with the Baltimore Colts after they made him a seventh round pick (#79 overall) in the 1958 NFL draft. In 11 pro seasons, Sample gained the reputation as a hard-nosed -- some would say dirty -- defensive back. If he didn't exactly invent the art of trash-talking and the bump and run, he raised those intimidation techniques to a fine art. He also backed up his bravado with studious preparation for games, keeping elaborate notes on pass receivers' tendencies.

Sample's bellicose nature and unwillingness to to stifle himself concerning the black man's place in pro football and in the USA at large made him unpopular with coaches, league officials and most of the mainstream media. His on-field play, however, meant there was always some team willing to give him a job.

In his career, Sample was on the winning side of two of the NFL's most famous games. In the 1958 NFL Championship Game, often called the "Greatest Game Ever Played," Sample intercepted two passes in the fourth quarter, including a 42-yard touchdown, the help the Colts defeat the Giants 23-17 in overtime in the game that many say began the NFL's rise to domination in American sports.

At the other end of his career, Sample was co-captain of the 1968 N.Y. Jets. His interception of an Earl Morrall pass on the Colts' two-yard line helped the Jets cement Joe Namath's guarantee of a Super Bowl III win over the Colts, establishing the AFL's parity with the NFL and assuring the eventual merger of the two leagues.

Sample retired from football after the 1968 season. He owned a ticket agency and the Sample's End Zone sporting goods store. in Philadelphia, where he also hosted a talk radio program for a time. Most impressive to me, however, was that after more than a decade of being pounded in the NFL, Sample took up tennis. As a player he earned a No. 1 ranking in the over-45 age grioup of the American Tennis Association. He also became a professional linesman, officiating at top tennis evgents all over the world. Off the court he sponsored grass-roots tennis programs for kids and sponsoring tournaments.

Sample remained politically active, as well. In 1986 he organized 73 buses from Philadelphia and northern New Jersey to ride to Washington, D.C. for the Million Man March.

Sample died from complications of heart disease in 2005, at the age of 68.

For whatever reason(s), Sample was a favorite of mine, which was too bad because as a kid there was virtually nothing in the way of his football cards to collect. In terms of mainstream cards, he appears only in the 1960 Topps set and, as a Redskin, in the 1966 Philadelphia Gum set (after he had joined the N.Y. Jets). I see on eBay that he also has at least one Kahn's Weiners card and probably appears on a few other regionals over his 11-year pro career.

I don't know how seriously I'm going to approach re-creating a football card legacy for Sample, but I've got some great photos of him from his early years with the Colts, a really super Redskins pose, and a late-career photo in a Jets uniform. With so many other card projects on the docket, it will be hard to devote too much time to just one player, but it's going to be a long winter, so who knows what will happen.
I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1955 Burger Beer checklist expands

As promised last time, we're going to take a new look at the issue that has been listed in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards as 1955 Burger Beer Cincinatti Reds premium pictures.

The impetus for this is the recent receipt of scans that were previously lacking, and a near doubling of the checklist for this set.

In the course of my cataloging work over the years I have worked with several dedicated Reds' specialists on building and updating checklists for the Burger Beer premium pictures. Names that come to mind as especially helpful in that work are Len Samworth, Moe Ryan, Bob Montgomery and Mark Reed. The latter was instrumental in allowing us to finally picture and to greatly expand the checklist for 1955 Burger Beer premium pictures.

Burger Beer was one of the Reds' staunch sponsors and (presumably) stadium concessionaires in the 1950s and 1960s. In that period they produced several distinctive styles of Reds' player pictures, though the manner of distribution is unknown . . . at least to me. The pictures may have been given as point-of-purchase handouts, or possibly used to satisfy fan requests for a favorite player's picture.

The Burger Beer premiums are all similar in format. They vary a bit in size, but all have portraits or posed action black-and-white photos on front, surrounded by fairly wide white borders. In the bottom border are some combination of player name (sometimes first and last, sometimes only last name), position, team name and team logo. Backs are generally blank, except for a few issues that have a short advertising message at the bottom.

Dating of the Burger Beer pictures is problematic and in the SCBC, they have been assigned to their various "sets" rather arbitrarily, generally based on shared photo characteristics and the uniform worn by the player, even when the players depicted might not have been on the Reds' roster in a given year. To me, these anomalies suggest that more than one style of picture may have been produced in any given season. Some players, in fact, are shown in the same pictures in different years, sometimes with minor cropping variations.
The issue that we have cataloged as 1955 is one of those "Burger Beer" sets that may or may not actually have any connection to the brewery, since the pictures lack the ad message found on the issues of 1956-1957 and 1958-1959. Based on their similarlity of format to the known Burger Beer issues, however, collectors have accepted them as part of that family.
The 1955 premiums are the most visually appealing of the bunch. Besides large, sharp player action poses or portraits, the fronts feature the iconic Mr. Red anthropomorphized baseball logo in each corner of the wide bottom border. Centered on front at bottom, in either two or three lines of type, are the player name, position and, on most but not all pictures, team name.
It is possible this style of picture was begun in 1954 and continued into 1955, based on the fact that two of the known pictures in this format are of players who were traded away from Cincinnati in the 1954 postseason.
Previous editions of the catalog included no photo, and only 13 players on the checklist. We're happy to be able to greatly expand that checklist and to finally share with you images of this set.
(1) Bobby Adams
(2) Dr. Wayne Anderson (trainer)
(3) Fred Baczewski
(4) Ed Bailey
(5) Gus Bell
(6) Rocky Bridges
(7) Jackie Collum
(8) Art Fowler
(9) Jim Greengrass
(10) Charlie Harmon
(11) Ray Jablonski
(12) Johnny Klippstein
(13) Ted Kluszewski
(14) Roy McMillan
(15) Rudy Minarcin
(16) Joe Nuxhall
(17) Harry Perkowski (traded to Cubs, Oct. 1, 1954)
(18) Wally Post
(19) Frank Smith (traded to Cubs, Dec. 8, 1954)
(20) Gerry Staley
(21) Birdie Tebbetts
(22) Johnny Temple
As always, your reports of additions or corrections to this checklist are encouraged, if you can provide documentation in the form of a scan or photocopy.