Monday, January 31, 2011

Dickin' around with Photoshop, Part 2

There are a number of strange back-view pictures to be found on the tobacco and caramel cards of the early 20th Century. This 1909-1911 American Caramel (E90-1) card of Frank Chance was just begging to be customized. 

I have to get older, but I don't have to grow up.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Just dickin' around w/Photoshop, Part 1

I saw a picture on another fourm the other day of a 1948 Bowman football card of Pete Pihos. I'd never sen that card before, and it seemed ripe for parody.

Friday, January 28, 2011

If Clemente had a '55 Bowman

From my earlier postings, you know that 1955 Bowman was one of my favorite baseball card sets as a child, and has remained so for the past half-century.

Vintage card collectors also known that because Topps and Bowman were in the end game of their 1950s "card wars", each company's sets was lacking more than a few of the stars and the top rookies of the day.

One of the key players that Bowman missed in 1955 -- and given his lack of major league experience or meaningful stats in Organized Baseball -- was Roberto Clemente.

I've always had it in the bacl of my mind that someday I would like to add a 1955 Bowman-style card to my portfolio of custom creations.

That opportunity presented itself recently when one of my regular searches of baseball photos available on eBay turned up an image of Clemente I hadn't encountered before.

It was a black-and-white picture of Clemente swinging a bat. More importantly, it pictured the young Buc in the sleeved jersey that the Pirates wore prior to the 1957 season. Naturally, I'd have preferred working with a color photo, but colorizing the picture was not too difficult.

Lately I've been working with the "blur" too in my Photoshop Elements graphic design package. I used it on the photo to blend in the yellow outlines of the jersey letters, and then to blend the player photo into the background.

For the background of my '55B Clemente, I went with card No. 147 from the original Bowman set, Sam Mele. Besides having a good view of the iconic backdrop of Shibe Park so familiar to 1955 Bowman fans, I liked the American flag waving in the skyline.

Keep watching this space, as I am in the groove as far as my custom card creations, and I have a long list of projects to work through.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A custom card for a 50-year baseball man

1957 Topps-style custom card.
Though two of his three major league seasons were played during the thick of the Topps-Bowman “baseball card wars,” Washington Senators infielder Tony Roig never appeared on a big-league card.

And, considering he played 13 seasons in the minors and six in Japan, his cardboard legacy is not very deep at all.

Roig couldn’t have missed being on a Topps card by too much. In a recent Topps Vault auction on eBay, there was a Topps archive photo, attributed to 1957, of Roig. But, since his major league career was over before the First Series of ’57 Topps was issued, it’s not surprising that he didn’t make the cut for the checklist that year.

However, that Topps photo just screams 1957 TOPPS. If you collected them back then, or since, you know what I mean . . . it just has the look of a 1957 Topps card. Naturally, I decided to remedy Topps’ oversight by retrofitting the photo to the ’57T format.

Roig spent more than 50 years in professional baseball in three countries between 1948 and the 1990s.

He was born in New Orleans on Dec, 23, 1927. Or maybe it was 1928. Fudging one’s age a year or two one way or the other (sometimes both over the course of a career) was common back then.

The Phillies signed him as a free agent out of high school as a right-handed pitching prospect. He split his first pro season, 1948, with a pair of deep-south Class D clubs, Troy (Alabama State League) and Lafayette (Evangeline League). Records are sketchy for the low minors in that era, so his pitching performance is unrecorded.

Roig batted .286 that season, and the Phils decided to switch him to the outfield. He remained at the Class D level for 1949, with Enterprise (Alabama State League) and Dublin (Georgia State League), hitting a combined .257.

Prior to the 1950 season, Roig was acquired by the Washington Senators. Once again he opened the season at Class D, with Rome in the Georgia-Alabama League. While the Senators tried to find his best defensive position – he played second, short, third and in the outfield – he hit his stride at the plate, batting .327 with 15 home runs. At the end of the season he was promoted to Chattanooga, where he hit .304 in a week’s worth of games.

Like many ballplayers in that day, Roig lost two of his prime years to military service during the Korean War, serving in the Army as an MP (when he wasn’t playing ball).

Roig returned to Chattanooga for the 1953 season, finding a home at second base. He batted .303, but his home run production dropped to the single digits – literally, he hit only one.

He earned a September call-up to Washington, making his debut as the starting second baseman in the second game of a Sept. 13 doubleheader, going hitless in three at-bats. He batted .125 in three games.

Back in Chattanooga for 1954, he was switched to third base, hitting .272. But when the Senators signed a Bonus Baby third sacker named Harmon Killebrew, Roig’s road back to the bigs at that position appeared blocked.

In 1955 he played shortstop at Class A Charlotte, second base at Chattanooga, and even got back to Washington for a month, hitting .228 and playing at second, short and third.

Roig spent most of 1956 with the Senators’ Triple-A club at Louisville as a second baseman. He saw his final major league action with the Senators at the end of the season, batting .210 and playing middle infield.

The 1957 season was spent back at Chattanooga, where he was a teammate of Killebrew’s, batting an even .300. In his 10th season in pro ball, Roig appeared on a collectible for the first time, as part of a set of team-issued 8” x 10” black-and-white posed action pictures. The Lookouts photocards are seldom seen in the hobby market, and the set’s checklist is still unconfirmed, but except for the Killebrew picture, the pictures do not command particularly high prices. The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards lists Roig at $30 in Near Mint.

That was also Roig’s last season as Senators’ property.

When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, they picked up Roig in the Rule 5 minor league draft to stock their new AAA team at Spokane.

Roig spent three seasons with the Indians, and most of the rest of his life in the Spokane area. He played with all of Dodgers’ top stars of the 1960s, but never got to play for the big club. He played all four infield positions with the Indians, and some in the outfield, batting .281, and in 1959-1960 averaging 15.5 home runs.

When the Indians won the Pacific Coast League title in 1960, the fans voted Roig as the team’s MVP. He capped his career at Spokane on Sept. 8, 1960, by playing all nine positions.

In his last two years at Spokane, Roig appeared in the 1959 and 1960 Darigold Farms milk carton cards. These rare regional cards were issued glued to milk cartons. As indicated by their catalog value – even non-star players like Roig bring $150-200 in NM condition – they are also scarce.

Roig was drafted out of the Dodgers’ system by the Chicago White Sox for 1961, playing the full season with the San Diego Padres. He batted .255 and had a career-high 19 home runs, splitting his time in the field between second and third bases.

1961 Union Oil
The easiest of Roig’s career-contemporary cards was issued in 1961, as part of the Union Oil run of Pacific Coast League team sets. Even in Near Mint condition, Roig’s card would likely sell for less than $15.

Roig’s final season in Organized Baseball came in 1962 with the White Sox AAA team at Indianapolis. Contracting pneumonia during spring training, Roig was limited to 90 games with the Indians, at shortstop and second base. He hit just .211.

Following the season in the U.S., Roig played winter ball in Venezuela.

In 1963 he began a six-year stint in Japanese pro ball. He played five years in the Pacific League, 1963-1967 with the Nishitetsu/Seibu Lions and 1968 as the 40-year-old shortstop for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He averaged 21 home runs a season in Japan, giving his teams unusual power for the shortstop position. He was selected to the equivalent of the league’s all-star team in 1966.

1967 Kabaya Leaf card of Tony Roig
(courtesy of Jeff Alcorn)
Roig appears on at least three Japanese baseball cards. He is the last card, #360, in that country’s first American-style baseball card set, the 1967 Kabaya Leaf issue. He also appears in a 1964 Marukami set and an unidentified menko (strip card) issue of the day. As might be expected, none are common in the U.S.

After his playing days were over, Roig returned to Spokane where he bought a lumberyard, which he operated until 1973 when he was hired as a scout by the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 1975-1976, the Brewers had Roig manage their short-season Class A team at Newark in the New York-Pennsylvania League. The team won the league pennant in 1975.

The closest Roig came to a big-league baseball card was in 1977 when he was included in the 18-card set of One Year Winners, a collectors’ issue by Larry Fritsch cards.

Roig later scouted for the California Angels and in 1981 came full circle professionally, joining the Phillies as a scout and hitting instructor for nearly two decades.

In 2008, on the golden anniversary of the arrival of AAA baseball in Spokane and the opening of Avista Stadium, Roig was honored by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the 50th anniversary game.

Tony Roig died on Oct. 20, 2010.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another 1964 Topps Tatoo Mantle variation

Honest, I don't make decisions on which newly reported variations to add to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards on the basis of what will consternate the greatest number of collectors.

But one of the most recently reported varieties, which just got in under the wire for the 2012 edition, involves a popularly collected Topps ancillary issue and the most expensive player in the set.

Levi Bleam of 707 Sportscards has confirmed the existence of two different back color variations of one of the Mickey Mantle variations in the 1964 Topps Tatoos. (Does anybody else wonder why Topps spelled it "Tattoo" in 1960 and "Tatoo" in 1964?)

The 1964 Tatoos are actually the 1-9/16" x 3-1/2" wrapper for a piece of bubblegum. The "front" is a reversed artwork portrait of a player or team logo, that could be moistened and applied as a temporary tattoo. The back is the colorful outside of the wrapper with instructions.

It has only been in the past 10-15 years or so that the catalog recognized the existence of four front variations in the set, all Hall of Famers: 1) Harmon Killebrew can be found with a green or red background, 2) Sandy Koufax can be found with either a horizontal or diagonal bank of color behind the portrait, 3) Willie Mays can be found with a yellow band behind the portrait that either encompasses the portrait or only extends from his ears to his chin, and, 4) Mickey Mantle can be found with either a diagonal yellow band behind the portrait or a red triangle. 

It is the latter Mantle tattoo that is the subject of the recently verified variation. Bleam, who probably holds in inventory more 1950s-1960s mainstream Mantles than any other dealer, has discovered that the "red triangle" Mantle can be found with the overall color of the "back" (the side with the advertising and instructions) printed in either red or yellow.

According to Bleam's informal surveying, the yellow-back version is considerably scarcer than the red. Once more collectors are made aware of the variation and more reports of relative scarcity are forthcoming, Bleam said he expects the value of the yellow-back version could settle in at around 2-3X the red-back version. The Standard Catalog currently lists both the Mantle yellow band and red triangle types at $325 in Near Mint.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Globe Printing team added

The new year has brought a report of a new team added to the opus of minor league baseball cards produced in the early 1950s by Globe Printing of San Jose, Calif.

California collector Jolene Jordan has reported the existence of a card from the 1952 Visalia Cubs team, pitcher Max Milton.

Jolene was given the card (actually a pair of them) as a birthday present by her grandmother some 20 years ago. Her grandmother lived in Visalia, so Jolene speculates the cards originated from a trip to a ballgame the night that the Max Milton cards were distributed.

The 2-1/4" x 3-3/8" black-and-white, blank backed card is in the familiar Globe Printing format, with a borderless action photo and a white strip with the player name.

Milton made his professional baseball debut at age 19, pitching for Visalia, the Chicago Cubs farm team in the Class C California League. He pitched in 26 games, only two of them as a starter. His record was 3-2 with a 5.58 ERA. In 71 innings he gave up 82 hits, 52 runs and 26 walks.

Milton's only other engagement in Organized Baseball was in 1955, with Tucson of the Arizona-Mexico League, where he was 0-1 in two appearances. It's possible, likely even, the years 1953-1954 were spent in the military.

The V-Cubs finished fourth in the league in 1952, 16 games out.

Assuming the Max Milton card is, indeed, part of a team set, there are no former or future Major Leaguers to look for. There may, however, be a card of Milton's pitching staff mate, Chet Brewer; the legendary Negro Leagues pitcher was at least 45 years old in 1952.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First tattoo on a baseball card?

While poking around on one of the baseball card forums that I frequent more frequently these days, I found an image of a 1952 Bowman card (#15) of Senators outfielder Sam Mele.

On Mele's right arm is a tattoo. It looks like it might be rose or other flowers; it wouldn't surprise me if there was a banner below with "Mother" or the name of a sweetheart.

I'm guessing this is the earliest card to show a player's ink. On the small black-and-white action photo on Mele's 1954 Topps card, you can also see a dark blob on his right arm, but can't make out any details.

The '52B is the only Mele card I've seen that shows this body art. He appears on Bowman cards from 1949-52, and 1954-55, and on 1951-52 and 1954 Topps cards as a player, and on 1962-67 Topps as manager of the Twins.

Mele appears with neither Topps nor Bowman in 1953. He was traded from the Senators to the White Sox in May, 1952, though you'd think that would have allowed plenty of time for the Bowman photographers and Topps artists to get a picture in his new uniform in time for the next year's cards.

And, while he played the entire 1956 season with the Indians, Mele didn't make the cut for the '56T set, having signed with the Tribe as a free agent just before the season opened.

Another bit of baseball card information I found on Mele concerns his 1954 Red Man card. He can be found depicted with either the White Sox, with whom he ended the 1953 season, or the Orioles, to whom he was traded on Feb. 5, 1954. It looks like the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards may have the relative values of those two variations transposed. A check on eBay shows 8-10 of the White Sox version available, and none of the Baltimore, yet the Sox card is priced at a 22% premium. Also in 1954, Topps and Bowman differed in their depiction of Mele; Bowman has him with the Sox, Topps with the O's.

Today, of course, tattoos on players' cards in all sports are ubiquitous. That wasn't always the case, though. In the mid-1990s at least one of the card companys was airbrushing tats off player photos.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Carl Weathers custom cards, la partie trois

I didn't get any response to my posting of the other day looking for French Canadian help in translating the back copy for the third of my Carl Weathers football cards.

So I got out there on the internet and hit the English-French translation sites. The resulting back copy is therefore more French-French than Canadian-French, but it was the best I could do at the time, since I wanted to finish this card and move on to other projects.

But just to give you an idea of the vagaries of working with internet translation sites, here are the translations I got for the cartoon caption: Carl studies acting (I've omitted the diacritical marks on the vowels).

  • Action d'etudes de Karl
  • Carl etudie agir
  • Carl etudie l'acte
  • Carl etudes agissant
  • Carl etudie cinema
This was my first attempt to replicate an O-Pee-Chee card. Weathers played for the British Columbia Lions in 1971-1973. I decided to work with a 1972 OPC style because he joined the Canadian team in mid-season 1971, and because OPC did not issue 1973 CFL cards.

I bought a '72 OPC Lions card on eBay and was surprised to find upon its arrival that (besides the card having been rather crudely trimmed) the stock used for the original 132-card set was much thinner than contemporary Topps cardboard. I've decided to embrace that, and when I print my cards I will print the front on a glossy postcard stock that I found at Staples. I'll print the backs as I usually do, on gummed label paper, and when I put the two together, I believe I'll have a pretty good replication.

In looking over '72 OPC Lions card on the internet, I saw the most of the photos have the same empty-stands stadium background.

The color photo of Carl Weathers that I had in a Lions uniform originated on an apparently postcard-size issue of B.C. Lions players of the week put put by Royal Bank. This the one of only two, so I've been told, "real" football cards issued of Weathers in his playing days. I've not seen the other, but was told it was similar in format, perhaps issued by a gas station.

I excised the image from the bank card and put it into the stadium scene to achieve the result you see here. The cartoon on back, the same one I used on my 1971 Topps-style custom, came from a 1970 O.J. Simspon card. 

I'm going to hold off actually printing my OPC cards for a couple of days, in case anybody writes to improve on my back translation. After that, I'll "go to press." I'll have a couple of extra cards available at $7.50 each, you can email me at for details.

Friday, January 14, 2011

College coaches are on my custom card radar . . . just not yet

From time-to-time readers of my blog/column and fans of my 1955 All-American style custom cards suggest that I should include coaches in my "update" set. Bear Bryant is among the most heavily lobbied-for choices.

I've also given that some consideration, and have even put aside some photos for possible use in such a subset. I just haven't made it enough of a priority to actually get started. When I do, you can bet I'll start with Bobby Bowden.

The FSU legend is on a list of "10 Legendary Coaches in College Football History," that is posted on the Best Universities website. I'm not sure that all 10 of the site's choices would make the cut for my checklist, but most are on my radar if that project ever gets underway.

Here's a link to that article: Top 10 College coaches .

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

French-Canadians' help needed

I'm in the final stages of creating a 1972 O-Pee-Chee style football card for Carl Weathers.

The assistance of any of our Northern neighbors fluent in Canadian French is earnestly solicited, since OPC back them had bilingual backs.

I'd like to have this translated to Canadian French: "Carl came to the Lions in 1971 after playing the previous season with the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. In the off seasons, Carl studies acting."

After poking around some on the (free) translation sites available on the internet, I am not confident that they would do the job is a manner that would not be laughable to French Canadians.

But please, don't try to stick in any dirty words, I think I can recognize most of those.

Please email your translations to me at


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Variations reported in Mantle Punch-Outs

A report of yet another variation among the scarce 1967 Topps Punch-Outs has reached us, hopefully in time to make the 2012 edition of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

The variation is, probably to the consternation of Mickey Mantle specialists, on the most expensive card in the set, i.e., the Mick.

Texas collector Al Richter, who specializes in Topps cards, including test issues and both cataloged and uncataloged variations, reports that the Mantle Punch-Out can be found with a background behind the portrait photo that is either "stadium (left)" or "sky (right)."

As with all of the Punch-Outs, the Mantle is also found with variations in the line-up on the card. We covered a few other recently discovered Punch-Out variations in the Dec. 17 posting.

Al is the only collector I have heard of that has completed the master set of '67 P-Os not only by "Captain" photo, but also by the two or more line-ups that can be found for each.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Final 1955 Hocus Focus found

Just in under the deadline for the 2012 edition of the Standard Catalog of Baseball is a confirmed report of the existence of the last two unchecklisted baseball subjects from the 1955 Topps Hocus Focus set.

Collector Jason Eggert recently bought a lot of nine '55T HF to aquire the Jackie Robinson card. Among the others that were "thrown in" on the purchase were the two cards that had been "missing" from the checklist all these years.

In researching his purchase, Jason found my blog posting from June 26, 2009, about Tom Akins' discovery of three other then-unknown '55T HFs: Mayo Smith, Wally Moon and Spook Jacobs. In that presentation, I speculated that since the checklist for the 1956 version of Hocus Focus, was the same as #3-18 and #22-23 of the 1955 set, that when 1955 cards #17 and #23 were finally confirmed, they would be Hal Smith and Mel Parnell, who are #15 and #18 in 1956.
That proved to be correct.

In case you're unfamiliar with the Hocus Focus sets, I'll provide a recap from that earlier posting.

HFs are very scarce cards, particularly in what collectors call "well-developed" condition. Hocus Focus cards were one of a genre of "spit-to-see" card novelties that Topps tinkered with in the 1940s and 1950s. Instructions called for wetting the front surface of the card and holding it to the light to develop the hidden picture. The quality of the resulting image resulted from the volume and evenness of application of the wetting agent, the exposure time and intensity of the light source, and probably other factors that neither Topps nor kids of that generation completely understood. I'm guessing that a quick dip in a tray of water probably was more effective at evoking a decent image than the spit-spray method employed by most kids on the sidewalk out front of the candy store.

There is a lot of confusion about how, and even when, the Hocus Focus cards were issued. There was a 252-card set issued in 1948 known as Magic Photos. They measure 7/8" x 1-1/2", but neither the name Magic Photos nor Topps appears on the cards. There are 19 baseball subjects in that issue.

The 1955 set may or may not be complete at 126 subjects, half the number of 1948 Magic Pictures cards, but no complete checklist exists. Besides the ballplayers, there are subsets of airplanes, world leaders, "Westerners," sports cars and other non-sport topics. These cards are 7/8" x 1-3/8," carry the name Hocus Focus on the back (but no mention of Topps) and, according to information seen on other forums, were probably issued in six-card strips in a nickel bubblegum pack. Besides the number at top on back, designating the card within the 23-subject baseball series, there is a number in the lower-right corner in a black circle indicating its position among the complete set.

The same format was repeated in (presumably) 1956 when a slightly larger -- 1" x 1-5/8" -- version was issued with 18 baseball players.

Jason is naturally interested in what the value might be of these discovery examples of Smith and Parnell. Unfortunately, Hocus Focus is not one of those ancillary Topps sets that has a competitive following among the PSA and SGC set registry crowds. There is only one 1955 set registered (and one card in the set) in the PSA universe, and none for SGC. This would mitigate against any bidding war for the discovery specimens of Smith and Parnell.

Postscript, Jan. 14: Well, I guess I was wrong about that! When they were put up for auction on eBay, closing Jan. 8, the Parnell and Smith cards sold for a total of just over $2,250!